You could pick a face. Any face. All of them were reflections of the pain, hopelessness and tearful despair that permeated Westwood Park on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.
As shocked crowds and the curious gathered after the shooting death of 18-year-old teenage father, Devail Lewis, Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton arrived unannounced on the scene.
"I do want to certainly express our condolences to the grieving mother over there," said Mr. Wharton. "I think once you see that it redoubles our resolve that we can. We will. We must. We're going to do something about it."
But, the uniqueness of Mayor Wharton's appearance at a crime scene wasn't about his capacity as a city official. He came as a caring human being who was ready to share the burden of a family's loss and a community's outrage.
"Sometimes we get to looking at numbers and we let the first four letters of that word kind of 'numb' us to the fact that all of these statistics that they're real people who are hurting," he said.
Even as Mayor Wharton presided over a Thursday downtown news conference on riverfront development, it appeared his immediate exasperation over Mr. Lewis' death had hardened into an even stronger resolve to crack down on those who perpetrate gun crimes.
"When we find the folks who did this there will be no mercy. The same is true with all the other senseless crimes we have here," he said. "Don't take our effort to reach out and be comprehensive. Don't take that as a sign of 'Oh, they're weak. They're huggin' a thug.' I mean we're going to kick a thug!"
Coming just days after the Memphis Police Department sponsored a "Gas for Guns" event, which Mayor Wharton and other city officials had hailed as successful, Mr. Lavell's deadly shooting put a temporary damper on what had been the administration's stepped up efforts to promote involvement with the city's youth through various programs.
Wharton says he'll continue to push that agenda, but, with one big caveat.
"If you need help, we're going to give your help. If you need a hand, we'll give you a hand. But, by George, after we try to give you help we try to give you a hand. If it takes it, we're going to give you pure-dee hell!"
WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
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