VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Author's note: The address and time for the gun violence awareness rally have been updated to reflect the organizer's plans.
Hampton Roads is seeing a surge of violence. Six of seven cities have had shootings, this week alone.
HONORING JAWAN JOHNSON
Loved ones of the 19-year-old gathered to celebrate his life in Virginia Beach. Earlier this week, on the night of May 31, the Sunoco off Pleasant Valley Road and Lynnhaven Parkway turned into a crime scene.
“He’s loving. He’s caring. He’s a teddy bear. He’s a protector. He’s friendly," said Jawan’s aunt, Sheri Johnson.
A sea of friends and family members prayed to honor the teen's memory.
Someone shot Jawan in the chest, according to police. He died at the scene.
Police said they closed in on a shooter but haven't disclosed any of the charges handed down.
“I just want [Jawan] to continue to be our guardian angel. And I want everybody who watches this and who may watch this later, the best way to honor someone who you love is to do something positive," said Sheri.
RALLYING FOR PEACE
Local pastor James Risper said he knows Jawan's father. He said his heart aches for the Johnson family, as well as other families who have had to endure the loss of a child.
"Because when you lose a child, ain’t nothing like it," said Risper. “We’ve got people right in our neighborhood, right in our face, we know their families, we know their friends, we know them and they’re getting murdered," said Risper.
Risper added that he feels compelled to hold a rally against gun violence at 1021 Virginia Beach Boulevard on the side of Dollar General on June 23. On that day in 2006, he lost his own and only son to gun violence.
The rally is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m.
"Just asking them to come out, not for my son, but for every child and seeking we just draw some attention because we’re not going to stop it, but we can draw a lot of attention to what’s going on around it, maybe it will slow it down," he said.
Holding strong to his faith, Risper is determined to make a change, especially in the younger generation -- just as the mission of Sheri Johnson, in honor of her nephew.
FORUM THIS WEEKEND
On Saturday, June 4, a coalition of anti-violence organizations will come together for a community youth forum. Everyone is welcome at the Kroc Center Gym in Norfolk for a panel discussion from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.