Jazz E Ellington hosts community forum to combat gun violence and remember Shawn Johnson

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LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) – The music theater in Lynchburg that was the site of a drive-by shooting Sunday brought people together Thursday night to find an answer to gun violence in the city.

The owner of the theater hosted a community forum Thursday night that included one of the victims of the shooting.

Dozens of people met at the Ellington Theater where the drive-by happened just days ago to show the community that they’re not afraid to address the problem of violence in Lynchburg.

Angelena Garland grew up in Lynchburg and was back home visiting her family Sunday night.

She never expected to end up in the hospital.

“I turned my back to Rivermont Avenue, and then all of a sudden I hear pow pow pow pow pow,” said Garland.

Garland and several others fell to the ground.

She says they never saw the attack coming.

“I sat up against the car and I saw, I looked down at my leg and there was a bullet in my leg,” said Garland.

It was only later in the hospital, Garland learned that not everyone she was with made it back alive.

“This guy was just standing right beside me and now he’s gone and it’s like wow, life just hits you like crazy,” said Garland.

That guy was Shawn Johnson, someone well know by many in Lynchburg.

Thursday night, community members came together to find an answer to his death, and the several others this year in Lynchburg.

“The community needs to become involved… we could come up with all of the programs that we want to come up with, but if it doesn’t facilitate what the actual people need, it’s a waste of time,” said Jazz E Ellington CEO Cynthia Merchant.

Several others agreed, voicing ideas Thursday to change their community for the better.

“When I was coming up, I can remember there being community centers all throughout the city, and Rivermont, to my knowledge, doesn’t have anything operating as such, so what are the options beyond the negative options?” said Reverend Byron Elliott, from Rivermont Baptist Church.

Garland says she wants to help inspire young people in the city to better their lives like she has.

Next year, Garland expects to be an officer in the United States Army.

“As long as you have God on your side and you remain focused on what your goals are, you can achieve them. You can achieve anything you put your mind to,” said Garland.

In addition to the event Thursday night at the Ellington, there will also be a vigil Friday night in front of the theater to remember Shawn Johnson.

At this time, police still do not have a suspect in the crime.

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