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Mayor says gun violence needs ‘citywide’ response following 11-year-old's death
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Mayor says gun violence needs ‘citywide’ response following 11-year-old's death

Gun violence

From left, Gia Herrera, 12; Layla Mason, 11; Bella Bakken, 11; and Sarah Rae, 11; mourn for the coming loss of their friend, classmate and basketball teammate Anisa Scott, also 11, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head Tuesday.  

As an 11-year-old girl who was shot in the head two days ago was scheduled to be taken off life support Thursday at 11:11 a.m., community members gathered at Brittingham Park to show support for her family.

They prayed, released dozens of pink, white and red balloons and held signs declaring “Put the Guns Down.”

Anisa (copy)

Anisa Scott 

“She was injured on the 11th, and she was 11-years-old,” her grandmother Lorene Gomez said at a press conference outside of American Family Children’s Hospital hospital Wednesday. “My grandbaby will take her wings. We ask you for continued love and support and care.”

The child, Anisa Scott, her family and their community are the latest victims of gun violence in Madison, which is increasing in a “staggering” trajectory, according to Acting Chief Vic Wahl. He said the car-to-car shooting was a “new low” for Madison.

On Tuesday morning, Anisa, who loved monster trucks and played basketball, was riding in a car when a shooter in a second vehicle fired into the car near the intersection of East Washington and Lexington avenues. The driver was not related to Anisa, but has a connection to her family, according to the MPD, and was likely the intended target.

Anisa is now among the 28 people who have been shot in Madison this year. So far in 2020, there have been 143 incidents of gun violence, representing an 88% increase over the same period last year. 

['Enough is enough': Madison leaders speak out after shooting of 11-year-old]

Equity is ‘best prevention’

In a speech Thursday, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway discussed gun violence as among the major challenges — along with a global pandemic, demands for racial justice, economic concerns and climate change — currently facing Madison.

“Gun violence in Madison is not confined to, or rooted in, any one neighborhood or community,” Rhodes-Conway said. “It affects the entire city, fueled by reckless and dangerous acts of a few individuals, intent on settling scores and willing to endanger their neighbors or innocent bystanders in the process.”

She called for a citywide response and more prevention work.

Currently, the city uses a peer support model. This means that trained peer support specialists who are rooted in the community and have experienced violence or incarceration intervene when there is risk of violent activity. The specialists also extend support to those who have been affected by violence.

Also, the city contracts with JustDane, formerly Madison-area Urban Ministry, to provide peer support for those who have been incarcerated.

Rhodes-Conway noted that equitable access to housing, health care, education, employment, childcare and business opportunities is the “best prevention.”

"Madison is still one of the most challenging places in the country to raise a Black child. That must change,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Every level of government and all our institutions, public and private, must focus on this work and be part of the solution.”

Satya Rhodes-Conway

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway addresses Madison in a virtual speech Thursday. 

Strategies from School Board president

Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes released her own statement that included a set of six strategies to “stand together against this violence.” One of them calls for restoring funding for Focused Interruption Coalition — a peer support group.

The mayor’s 2020 operating budget proposal cut funding for this effort from $409,500 in 2019 to $200,000 in light of tight finances and the rapid increase in FIC’s funding in 2019. The City Council added back $25,000 in the adopted budget this year.

Noting her experience as a former Madison police officer and a deputy mayor overseeing public safety under former Mayor Paul Soglin, Reyes said she knows “firsthand the work that can and must be done to keep our community safe.”

Reyes said in an interview that she hasn’t observed a “sense of urgency” — before or since the pandemic began — from Rhodes-Conway’s office on public safety.

“We should have been prepared,” Reyes said. “Now we’re at the point of having to respond and intervene.” 

The other strategies Reyes outlined include:

  • Donating to Crime Stoppers to increase the cash reward for information on what happened to Anisa.
  • Move with urgency to develop public health strategies that address root causes of violence.
  • Support the MPD’s Special Investigations and Violent Crime units to use focused deterrence strategies in collaboration with community partners.
  • Exhibit “empathetic action” to minimize divisiveness in the community.
  • Establish and implement a Homicide Review Commission in partnership with the community.

Earlier Wednesday, City Council President Sheri Carter, other alders and community members gathered in Penn Park to denounce the gun violence.  

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi also weighed in, supporting a continued focus on “addressing the root causes and conditions that contribute to the unprecedented violence we have witnessed throughout the summer.”

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