In wake of Palmetto night club shootings, anti-violence panel being explored

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 23, 2011 

MANATEE -- A group of officials concerned about violent crime met Thursday in an effort to form a commission or task force that could explore long-range solutions.

In the wake of a brazen mass shooting in Palmetto that killed two and injured 22, the group hoped it could rally residents countywide to try to address the root causes of such a horrific incident.

“We’re kind of trying to save the world here, but ... it’s not that you’re trying to save the world all in one move with setting up this commission or task force,” said Harold Byrd Jr., a Bradenton city councilman. “But you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Also attending the meeting at the County Administrative Center were Michael Gallen, Manatee County commissioner; Cheri Coryea, county director of neighborhood services; Mary Lancaster, Palmetto city commissioner; and Jeff Burton, CRA director.

Gallen said he hoped an established commission could include representatives from a wide swath of society, including law enforcement, the state attorney’s office, municipalities, the school board, community organizers, and ordinary citizens.

Such a panel might round up resources countywide, and make recommendations to try to address the situation, he said.

“We have nothing in the minority community to even deter our children,” said Lancaster. “What they see is what they do, and that’s all they’re seeing now.

“All these people now that are out there doing that shooting and all of that kind of stuff, unless God changed them, we’ve already lost them,” she continued. “They have no regard for human life to shoot like that. What I’m saying is, we’ve got to get these kids when they’re young.”

The discussion touched on contributing factors like the long-term effects of single parenthood and teen pregnancy; a lack of black police officers, and a fear among some black residents that reporting crime might result in retaliation; unemployment and poor parenting.

Byrd recalled he used to stay until 9 p.m. at the Boys Club; but now, many community centers close at 5 or 6 p.m., he said.

Gallen suggested businesses might be interested in helping out.

The group agreed to meet again after researching its options.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.

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