Parents of Shooting Victim Share Pain and Anger as Community Group Works to Stop Gun Violence

Two shootings this week were carried out by gang members, SDPD said. Now, a community-based organization is working with the city to encourage gang members to stop the violence

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Anger and hurt are the feelings parents Vernon Franklin Jr. and Veronica Mack are struggling with this week after a drive-by shooting killed their son Dorian Franklin.

“You know he was big, but he was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet,” Mack said. “He loved his family.”

Dorian Franklin, 34, was shot and killed Monday afternoon in the Mountain View community. He was a new father planning to get married and start a new business. His family said he stopped by a convenience store to chat with friends – who may have been the intended targets. A second man was shot but survived.

Dorian Franklin's family is left with the pain and anger of losing their son.

“It hurts me. That was my baby, that was my son, my only son,” Mack said. “That guy took him from me.”

“I’ll never get to see my son again. That’s a hard thing for a father to swallow,” Franklin’s dad Vernon Franklin Jr. said. “This is ridiculous.”

It’s the second gang-related shooting in a week, police confirmed, and it comes after a recent “season of peace,” where gang members agreed to not carry out violence, thanks in part to the community outreach and mentoring group C.A.S.T.

Community Assistance Support Team offers resources to stop violence in the community, mainly by sending former gang members like co-founder Bishop Cornelius Bowser to talk to the members and have them agree to not retaliate.

“From the conversations that I've had, a lot of these guys, they want peace,” Bowser said. “They traumatized, they messed up. They don't want, you know, violence.”

Bowser said some are willing to agree to peace, but are afraid if they let their guard down they could be the next target.

In March, San Diego announced a partnership with C.A.S.T. and the formation of a pilot program called No Shots Fired. The goal is to get gang members to put down guns while providing resources and support to change their lives. The program was supposed to start over the summer but C.A.S.T. claims there’s a hold up because the city might not be able to grant funds to help pay bills of the gang members while they’re going through the reform process.

No Shots Fired is modeled after similar programs across the country.

In those programs, fellow gang members, who agree to participate, must pledge to put down their guns. They go through cognitive behavioral therapy and receive guidance and help to secure jobs. If they have good behavior some could even receive stipends of up to $1,000.

The program has been met with skepticism. Some argue cities shouldn’t pay people to not shoot each other.

Bowser said people need to understand that these programs are needed because of the inequity Black and Brown communities have faced for decades, which puts them at a disadvantage compared to other communities with more resources.

“It's been almost 50 years now since we've been having these problems and you can't police your way out; we still have violence.” Bowser said. “That's what most people think the solution is, is policing, It's not, it's not policing, it’s the community coming together with solutions.”

Ideas Mack said she’ll support now that she’s joined a group of parents, no one wants to be a member of. And she hopes this program will keep other families from experiencing what she’s going through now.

“My only prayer is that I hope this don’t keep going. You know stop. Just stop it. I don’t want nobody else to lose another life like this,” Mack said.

Elijah Smith, 25, was arraigned Friday for killing Dorian Franklin. He pleaded not guilty and will have a bond hearing Oct. 30.

“The thing that saddens me is, how could another human being shoot another human being? I mean we’re all Black, you know, and we’re supposed to be helping each other,” Mack said. “How could you live with yourself knowing that you took away somebody’s son, father, brother, uncle, cousin, godson.”

The next “Season of Peace” is scheduled for Thanksgiving through New Year’s.

NBC 7 reached out to the city attorney’s office to get a status update on the No Shots Fired program. We have yet to receive a response.

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