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Advocates Seek Justice, Gun Control Measures at B-N Event

Mollie Ward surrounded by crowd
Ryan Denham
The Rev. Mollie Ward, center, leads the group during an event marking the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in downtown Bloomington.

Victims of gun violence and advocates for gun control joined forces Wednesday in Bloomington to mark the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and urge lawmakers to act.

Dameca Kirkwood of Bloomington, who lost her son Trevonte to gun violence last year, was the featured speaker. The 27-year-old father of two was one of nine people killed by gunfire in Bloomington-Normal in 2018; his fatal shooting on Oct. 30, 2018, is the only one without an arrest.

Dameca Kirkwood shared her family’s heartbreak, connecting one of the country’s worst mass shootings (Parkland) with the everyday gun violence that’s arrived in Bloomington-Normal.

“As a community, we’ve got to do better. We got to keep talking,” she said. “We’re going to come together. And we’re gonna do what’s right. We’re gonna be the community that everybody thinks we’re not. We’re gonna listen. We’re gonna place the calls. We’re gonna stand and we’re gonna talk. We’re gonna back the Bloomington Police Department. Get ready. Cause we’re coming.”

Kirkwood also had a pointed message for the person who killed her son.

“Not one stone will be unturned. Not one lead will go unfollowed. We will find you. You will be brought to justice. Because here in Bloomington-Normal, we will stand together. He is not a case number. He is not just a black, African-American with dreads. His name is Trevonte Kirkwood. He was my son. And as his mother, until I take my last breath, I will do whatever. I will keep preaching. I will keep speaking. Until the bastards who done this have been brought to justice,” she said.

Video: Watch Dameca Kirkwood’s comments at Wednesday’s event:

Bloomington Police on Tuesday renewed their plea for the public’s help in solving the Kirkwood case. Those with any information are asked to contact BPD Detective Jeff Engle at (309) 434-2371 or, to remain anonymous, call McLean County Crime Stoppers at (309) 828-1111.

“The Bloomington Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division continues to investigate and actively pursue all leads in the murder of Trevonte Kirkwood,” BPD said on Facebook.

Also speaking Wednesday were leaders from the McLean County Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America chapter. That group formed last year after the Parkland school shooting, in which 17 students and staff were killed and another 17 were injured.

Moms Demand Action advocates for new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize the safety of families. Local chapter leader Karen Irvin, a former teacher, said she too has been personally touched by gun violence; one of her former fourth-graders, Egerton Dover, was shot and killed in December on Bloomington’s west side. Two men are charged in his death.

“We pledge to keep working to do our part to end gun violence. We pledge to remember Trevonte and all the young people who were killed or injured last year in our community and nationally. We will work for change. And we will work for accountability. And we will work for justice,” Irvin said.

The Parkland shooting sparked a national wave of activism among young people looking for stronger gun control measures. That included school walkouts in Bloomington-Normal.

The group BN Youth Activists formed out of that activism. Group leader Ari Whitlock, who also spoke at Wednesday’s event, noted some successes at the state level, such as a new law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker that gives the state more oversight over firearms dealers. But stolen crime guns continue to flow into Illinois from neighboring states, she said.

“We need to work with these states next to us to stop the other weapons from coming in,” Whitlock said. “But we also need to work with gun owners themselves, requiring (them) to house their weapons responsibly. We need to require them to keep a gun safe. You don’t want your weapon to become the reason behind the next tragedy. You don’t want someone to take it and then take someone’s life.”

Nearly 40,000 people died in the U.S. from firearm injuries in 2017, up by over 1,000 from the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.