The Mechanicsville community in East Knoxville finds a small amount of comfort as white and blue balloons float towards the sky. Saturday a crowd gathered to remember JaJuan Latham, the 12-year-old who was killed by gang violence on April 16, 2016.
“JaJuan is the cousin of Zaevion Dobson,” said Andre Canty, a prominent figure in the East Knoxville community. “His death hurt me, right, so, any time a young person has their life taken to senseless gun violence, it hurts me.”
Canty and State Representative Rick Staples, spoke to a crowd who is still feeling JaJuan’s death daily.
“I’m tied in with the family,” said Staples. “JaJuan Latham’s great grandmother actually helped raise me. I owed it to the family to be here. They suffered a great loss like so many across the state of Tennessee.”
Staples has been working on getting legislation passed in honor of JaJuan.
“JaJuan Latham’s murderers have not been caught, so, it’s important to me that this piece of legislation, which increases the penalty if you’re found guilty of a drive-by shooting that ends in the death or bodily harm of a minor, being enacted when they’re caught they meet this penalty.”
Canty says he met JaJuan for the first time on the day he was killed.
“Even though it was a brief moment, I got to see his bright eyes, his smile and I saw a future there, as I see in all kids, and so though it hurt, looking at him I know what I’m fighting for,” said Canty.
There will be a balloon release in JaJuan’s memory on Monday at Bearden Middle School.