Leaders Plead For Help From All Areas of Des Moines in Order to Stop Violence

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It's an ugly situation that some say too many Des Moines residents don't seem to see.

"Iowa is like the ostriches. We stick our head in a hole in the ground and don't believe something is reality," said Andre Brooks, Pastor at Kingdom of Life Family Ministry International.

The reality is that two Des Moines murders this week pushed 2017's homicide total to 14 and over the entire 2016 total. On Friday, it brought city leaders from all walks of life to Elpis Christian Fellowship, with many wanting to urge all residents of the city to look in the mirror as the horror is already impacting the future.

Brooks said, "Look at the last young man who just got shot," referring to Choice Elliston. He added, "He got shot across from a school. One of those kids that saw the shooting goes to my church. His dad says since then he's been having nightmares."

Making a change also means not being afraid to speak to those choosing to be a part of the gun violence.

"It's a challenge to me to come outside my doors and speak to those men and women, unashamed, without fear and tell them the end result is this."

For hours, members of the NAACP, Des Moines Police Department, and several church pastors brought passion and pride in the hopes of creating a safer Des Moines community.

"This is home for us, so whether it is east side, south side, Waukee, or Norwalk, we want to remember and pray for families of all the victims."

The normally quiet Beaverdale neighborhood hasn't been spared from violence, and they are not sitting by idly.

"Beaverdale has been statistically one of the safest neighborhoods in Des Moines, but when we have an anomaly like three shootings within a short time it just unnerves people," said Mike McCarthy, a member of the Beaverdale Neighborhood Association.

It has caused them to beef up a neighborhood watch program that lost its steam over the years.

"Trying to rebuild the neighborhood watch program like we had it before. If we did it once, we can do it again," said McCarthy.

The name of the church, Elpis, is Greek for "hope." It is exactly what leaders want attendees to leave with, but they say it must begin and end with more than one community.

"This ain't a black thing, it's a human thing," said Brooks. "How can you shut your eyes and ears because it's not your next door neighbor?"

The gathering was a vigil and discussion that leaders hope will be a turning point out of the darkness.

Brooks said, "From the governor on down, everyone should have a voice. The police chief, who is a friend.  All pastors should have a voice.  I don't care where you are from."

The Beaverdale Neighborhood Association plans to meet on July 12th to discuss changes to the watch program. Pastors at Friday night's gathering hope to hold more public discussion. They say one meeting is not going to solve this issue.

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