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Rally tackles crisis of gun violence

Even as leaders in the community came together Wednesday afternoon to rally for an end to gun violence in the city, new reports of such violence continued to be reported by police.

Members of SNUG, "guns" spelled backwards, a city group dedicated to stopping the violence in Niagara Falls, gathered with local pastors at 12th and Niagara streets, where an 18-year-old city man was shot just after 6 p.m. last Thursday. He remains hospitalized in stable condition in Erie County Medical Center from a wound in which a bullet pierced his left arm and went into his chest.

Anthony McDougald had apparently been standing at the corner with a group of friends when a vehicle containing three men pulled up, and a fight started. At least two of the men had guns, police said. McDougald was shot as he ran down the street.

Michael Cole, an outreach worker for SNUG, said the group gathered not to lay blame, but to work together to make a change.

"We're here to make the statement, 'Enough is enough.' We want to see our kids grow up. We want to see them do better. We are out here to be an example, to live by example," Cole said.

"Outreach and love for these kids can make a difference," he said.

"Violence is a learned behavior, and just like they learned how to have a violent behavior, they can learn to be better," said SNUG program manager Jimmie Seright, pastor for the New Jerusalem Reporting Center for Boys.

Many in the group have been in prison before, Seright said, but they realized that it was not a life they wanted. They aim to provide a better example.

But sadly, the violence hasn't stopped.

Just after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, police were called to the 1800 block of South Avenue after a city man was shot in the hand and in the leg. Police at the scene found a 1998 Pontiac sedan blocking the street, and in the vehicle they found blood, a lot of it, all through the vehicle. Several bullet holes were found on the passenger side of the sedan.

Police followed a blood trail down South Avenue and found Gabriel Felts, 28, on a porch with his hand wrapped in a sweater. He had been shot in the hand and in the left leg, above the knee.

Felts told police he was shot in the 2000 block of LaSalle Avenue when he stopped to drop off a key. As he was leaving, he heard several shots, then saw blood. He drove off to find family members. He was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where he remained in stable condition Wednesday.

Gun violence also erupted just before 2 a.m. Wednesday in the 400 block of 25th Street, where a taxi driver reported being robbed of $300 at gunpoint.

"It makes me wonder sometimes why money, property and prestige has diverted us [to caring for these] more than the value of our own children's lives," Cole said. "We want our children growing up and having a future, not with a gun in their hands."

Mark Perkins, pastor of Destination Life Fellowship, said that it was not a black and white issue, but instead a lack of strong father figures and male role models.

"We've got so many single mothers, Perkins said. "Sixty percent of the city is single mother households," he said. "We need to help dads be mentors to their kids.

"This is one of the Seven Wonders of the World," he added. "We are here, a quarter-mile from the casino and the falls, and we are seeing destruction."

email: nfischer@buffnews.com