It was April 27, 2013, when Rose Haney heard gunfire down the block.
It wasn't long before she learned her son TaVontae Jamar Haney, 19, had been killed. When she went to the scene she discovered it was two Fort Wayne Police officers who had shot and killed her son.
“It's painful; you cannot find words to express it,” Haney said, referring to the loss of her child. Her life is not the same. Her son's death has left a void that can never be filled. Haney is still wrestling with just what happened. “I miss his smile,” Haney said.
Haney's mother went Saturday to the NACCP Pick Up a Book Not a Gun march because she wanted to get the attention of other parents. Haney said her son was a good child, educated, and employed. She wants the violence to stop with this generation before it is to late. Haney's sister Felicia Farr and her son Javan Farr, 9, were there to support Haney.
“We are here for justice for T.J.” Farr said.
"We want to stop the violence," Farr said, explaining she saw the march as an opportunity to get the message out to the community. Farr said after the police investigation the family was told there was just cause in her nephew's death. According to a statement from the Allen County prosecutor's office the shooting was ruled self-defense on the part of the officers as Haney was reported to be holding a gun at the time of the shooting. Police say he was the passenger in a vehicle that fled police and crashed, and after running through a neighborhood he confronted police and was fatally shot.
Farr said it has been upsetting.
“We do believe everyone is going to reap what they sow; it's going to come around,” Farr said with a sad shrug of her shoulders.
“The city, the community needs to step up and stop the violence. If you see something happening that shouldn't be, sometimes you might want to look into it because you never know, it could be your child,” Rose Haney said.
Now just over a year since her son's death Haney, along with other members of the community, gathered for the second annul NAACP Pick up a Book Not a Gun march. Unlike last year, the crowd was smaller, but many of the people, like Haney, had been touched by the death of someone close.
For Carolyn Bolden it was her nephew Sidney Earl Gates, 26, who died from stab wounds July 31 during an altercation at Brookmill Court Apartments.
“I'm here to promote stopping the violence to save our men,” Bolden said.
The Rev. Saharra Bledsoe, president of the NAACP for Fort Wayne-Allen County, Local Chapter 3049, said although Saturday's crowd of marchers was smaller and so far the number of homicides has been lower this year, she still believes it is important to keep marching.
“The local NAACP has taken a pledge that we will be out here every year until we are able to say within our city that there is no senseless gun violence,” Bledsoe said.
The rally started at the corner of Colerick and South Anthony Boulevard. After a prayer led by Bledsoe the marchers walked to the corner of McKinnie Avenue, and South Anthony where they had a series of guest speakers until 3 p.m. Starting this Sunday the NAACP will be continuing their Sunday in the Park Program throughout May. Each Sunday at Memorial Park from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. they will have events and activities based around stopping the violence and creating unity in the community, Bledsoe said. She extended an invitation to all of the Fort Wayne residents to come out and participate. This year's theme is “Praise in the Park.”