Peace Walkers of Manatee County unite to end senseless killings

Peace Walkers of Manatee unite to end killings, crime

rdymond@bradenton.comMarch 12, 2014 

MANATEE -- Hank Mallol tried to read as many of the names as he could.

Each name has become a statistic in the Manatee County's official homicide log over the last four years.

But to Mallol, a former Manatee County Sheriff's Office homicide detective who founded the Police Athletic League's football program in 1997 and is now jayvee football coach at Manatee High School, the 47 people murdered from 2011-14 in Manatee County represent souls who died senselessly and left behind loved ones.

"Dakota Smith, 15, killed as he walked home in 2014," Mallol said.

"The killer remains free on the street. Damen Gilbert, 20, beaten to death by the area of a playground at Citrus Meadows. Matthew Arguz, 20, of Palmetto and Lytreeon Collins, 32, shot outside their homes by two men in Bradenton.

"Brenton Coleman Sr., 39, killed by two men in front of a kid, parents and cheerleaders at a youth league football practice at the 13th AV Dream Center," Mallol added.

"Trayon Goff, 25, and Gwenette Matthews, 38, having a good time, music, dancing, just a night out with friends, when someone opened fire into Club Elite in Palmetto, wounding 22 and killing Goff and Matthews," Mallol said.

Only six people heard Mallol read the names at Tuesday's inaugural meeting of Peace Walkers of Manatee County, the organization Mallol said he felt motivated to start a few months ago in response to the violence and unsolved murders in Manatee.

Mallol said he wasn't deflated by the small number who showed up for the meeting at Bradenton's Inspiration Academy.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," Mallol said. "We are not going away. Our mission is to march in Manatee County as a sign of peace to stop the violence, the killings, the senseless shootings. Our organization is pro-law enforcement and pro-Crime Stoppers. We will try to help the law solve these crimes and end the violence."

The few in attendance had a lot of input to offer Mallol.

Manatee County Crime Stoppers Executive Director Frank Brunner; Manatee County Sheriff's Office Detective Bruce Benjamin; Police Athletic League football coach John McKenzie; former Bayshore High School assistant football coach and Police Athletic League coach Don Priest; Sharon Carlson of the Manatee County Department of Health; and Susan Mallol, Hank's wife and a operating room nurse who works at a surgery center, helped Mallol conclude the first march should honor Dakota Smith sometime in late March or April in the area where he lived, the 2500 block of 13th Avenue East, essentially the Norma Lloyd Park area.

"I think you should align yourself with a church exactly in the area where Dakota lived and draw on their support to achieve your mission," Brunner said.

The group is now seeking new members to help end violence and a church that wishes to march with the group through the Norma Lloyd community. Those interested are asked to email Mallol at peacewalkersofmanatee@yahoo.com or see the organization's Facebook page at peacewalkersofManateeCounty.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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