Photo: Activist Joseph Pettigrew, his mother; Aretha Pettrigrew and Ryan Loree; activist, take a photo with a newly signed proclamation.
“I was thinking about how they were feeling and all the emotions that go through one’s mind when something like that so tragic happens to family. I was thinking about the new lives they’re going to have to embark on since their loved ones are gone,” Pettigrew said.
He wondered what the cause of the these murders was-whether it was domestic, retaliation or something as simple as an argument that took a left field turn.
“When I first heard about the homicides, I saw it on the news. They didn’t identify the people yet. I was just thinking how so many of these take place. I was just thinking ‘the next day, no one is going to talk about it’ because there are so many homicides that occur and the Flint Police Department doesn’t have the manpower to solve all these crimes. We have people who, in a sense, are violently murdered and no one is held responsible,” Pettigrew said.
In Pettigrew’s opinion, some cases don’t get as much attention as the most recent Flint homicides. Pettigrew lost his dad May 1, 2018. Right now, the case is at a standstill.
Pettigrew’s dad was working out at The Rock Fitness Center on South Saginaw. All Pettigrew knows is someone asked about the roof leaking and shot his dad. There was an off duty officer working out with Pettigrew’s dad, but he did not get shot.
“It’s not a cold case,” Pettigrew said.
The driver for the violent incident has been caught and is being held in the Upper Peninsula.
“The shooter is still on the loose. He’s still walking the streets,” Pettigrew said.
Pettigrew feels positive about the possibility of the case being solved. State police officers are working on the case.
“In my honest opinion, I feel like this case should have been solved already,” Pettigrew said.
He said he is ready for the case to be over with so he can finally move on with his life, which he said he is unable to do until then.
According to Pettigrew, information on the case is being held from even family. The cause of death is also being withheld.
“I understand it’s because of the investigation. It has to be tight solid so nothing falls through, but at the same time I feel like there could be some more transparency,” Pettigrew said.
Pettigrew said he worries about the shooter coming after him and his family.
“It still feels like it’s an open wound that hasn’t been fully healed yet.
More recent tragedy
There is a suspect in the triple slaying case that occurred in Flint Feb. 18, 2020.
“For most of these, on a homicide, you’re looking at a life sentence,” said Special First Lieutenant for the Michigan State Police, David Kaiser.
Police received a call around 12:30 p.m. about three deceased bodies on the 300 block of E. Rankin Street, near Alexander Street, with apparent gunshot wounds. The bodies were discovered by a person who came to the house to check on a friend.
Casius Eugene Childress-49, Winfred Ricky Galloway-40 and Mariah Marie Wells-26 were identified after an autopsy was performed and through fingerprints in the first homicides of 2020.
“It does not appear this was a robbery,” Kaiser said.
Last year there were 43 homicides. There was almost a three month lapse without a homicide in the city of Flint.
“Any shooting or homicide is a tragedy. It’s somebody’s mother, father, sister or brother,” Kaiser said.
He said state police are working, as well as Flint police, are working to find who is responsible for this.
Pettigrew helped organized Flint Youth Against Gun Violence in March of 2019. Crime Stoppers, the Michigan Coalition Against Gun Violence and WOW (Without Walls) Outreach all came together for the group’s first event.
“The group fell through. People weren’t really dedicated. So, we restructured it. We saw there were a lot more issues that needed to be addressed to help with the anti-gun violence movement. We needed to focus on education and restoring economic in the city-giving people jobs. So, we re-centered it as an all inclusive group rather than being just for the youth.”
In February 2020, Pettigrew collaborated with other activists to create Communities Against Gun Violence.
“We saw there were so many people who had been murdered but nobody was really advocating for them. We said let’s bring this to the mayoral administration so we can boost our leverage and support. We want to unify the city with this cause. There are so many organizations that do the work to ensure communities are safe, but I wanted to have it in a way where we could all come together.”
Communities Against Gun Violence is working on getting its 501 (c) (3) status. One of the group’s goals is to take advantage of the $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance that is funding the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program and the North Flint Revitalization Initiative to reduce violence in neighborhoods. Pettigrew has been in contact with the director of the North Flint Revitalization Initiative.
“We would like to do some educational opportunities-letting kids, teenagers and young adults know about the rights they have as American citizens and helping them to just be aware of who they are. North Flint Revitalization Initiative has a lot of partners under their umbrella, and we want to partner with those individuals as well.”
It has been about a year since Pettigrew began his efforts to get the city to proclaim a day in remembrance of Flint residents whose lives have been lost due to violence. Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s office confirmed Neeley has very recently signed the proclamation. Flint Gun Violence Awareness Day is May 1, 2020
“We appreciate the partnership of those who embrace life and nonviolence activity. I am humbled to sign this proclamation on behalf of the residents of Flint,” Neeley said.