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'What we need are guys just like me' | Anti-violence programs recruit to change St. Louis homicide numbers

Ladon Meriweather said he's up for the challenge of tackling gun violence, as St. Louis' yearly homicide count now surpasses 200

ST. LOUIS — Driving through north St Louis Sunday evening, this busy roller rink catches James Clark's eye. The slow-rolling skaters gracefully loop across the asphalt.

This is the St. Louis Clark wants to see, but he knows he has to tackle a different kind of cycle to make it happen more.

"Numbers are not going to drop overnight," Clark said of St. Louis' escalating homicide numbers. "But through sustained resources and engagement, we can see the numbers come down."

Clark said the Urban League is hiring for two programs – the Cure Violence rollout in Walnut Park and Serving Our Streets – to de-escalate gun violence.

"We will have 15 people that will be trained and in the neighborhood within the next 72 hours," he said.

One of the de-escalation team members is Ladon Meriweather, who said he's changed his life around because of Clark.

"He showed me another way, and that was it," Meriweather said. "I just need to see it. If you don't see it, you don't know."

Meriweather looks at the homicide rates which now top 200 cases in 2020 after another violent weekend.

Police said they're still looking for a suspect after a man was found shot and killed in north St. Louis early Saturday morning. The man – in his 40s – was shot in the area of Kingshighway Boulevard and Margaretta Avenue at around 7:30 a.m. He was not conscious or breathing at the scene.

Victoria McBee, 34, was shot in the eye and killed in St. Louis’ Greater Ville neighborhood on Saturday. Police said they found McBee lying in the streets with several gunshot wounds, the result of some sort of argument. Several cars were also shot, though police said the shooter left the scene before they arrived.

Additionally, three adults and an infant were shot in St. Louis' Lewis Place neighborhood Saturday evening. Police said the 8-month-old and the two 32-year-olds were sitting inside a parked vehicle when three suspects fired shots at the vehicle from a dark-colored SUV traveling eastbound on Vernon Avenue.

The boy was grazed in the head and the woman suffered several superficial wounds to her head, face, and abdomen. The man was shot in the back. After realizing they had been injured, the man drove them to the hospital for treatment. Police did not give the condition for any of the victims but said that all of them had stable vitals.

With stories like that, Meriweather said he realizes they have a challenge ahead of them.

"What we need are guys just like me. If you come from it, if that's your hood, your community, we need you to take your community and do something good to it because you have poisoned it for a while," Meriweather said.

Meriweather said he's up for the challenge of tackling gun violence and turning around the rising numbers, though both he and Clark acknowledge it will likely be a slow reversal, much more difficult than the turns he sees at the roller-skating rink.