Residents aired safety concerns Tuesday evening, days after two teenage brothers were shot and killed outside a south Arlington apartment complex.
About 30 people, some clad in Arlington Police uniforms, gathered around Sharetta Sublett as she took in the balloons and signs offering condolences for her sons, Josh Williams, 13, and Kaleb Williams, 17. The two died at Medical City Arlington after being shot Friday afternoon near Artisan at Rush Creek apartments in the 6000 block of Clearwater Drive.
More people joined as the night went on, offering condolences and prayers to Sublett. While the event took a somber tone as attendees lamented teenagers’ deaths, organizer and Renew Church Pastor Quincy Dowell said he wanted attendees to have hope that leaders would make a difference.
“We definitely want to draw attention to the tragedy, but at the same time we want to move forward progressively,” Dowell said.
The prayers were matched with a community discussion on making the south Arlington community safer. Residents said children who normally play around the complex have hidden inside since the shooting. Some residents also raised concerns with lighting around the complex and general safety.
“People are afraid to walk outside and you haven’t seen kids at all outside since Friday afternoon. There have been no kids running around, everybody’s staying in,” said resident Shannon Bucek. “How can we come together to have a safer area to live in?”
Police Chief Al Jones said he would work together with the community on improving safety.
“We really, truly want to bridge this gap,” Jones said. “We can’t do it alone. We need the community, and this is a very good first step for us.”
Several community groups reached out to the family and complex over the weekend. Felicia Williams, founder of advocacy group Bridging the Gap, said the family and neighbors have called for improvements to the complex that could improve quality of life and safety.
Williams, who also lost her son to gun violence, said she wants to help better the community in any way she can, whether providing food, clothes, bill assistance or guidance to families. In any case, she said, parents must keep tabs on their children.
“We as a community have to do better. I’m serious,” Williams said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “We have a responsibility not just to govern our children, but other children as well.”
Raul Gonzalez, District 2 city council member, and Ruby Faye Woolridge, District 6, also met with residents and family at the apartment complex Saturday. Along with asking parents to monitor their children’s activities, Woolridge and Gonzalez also raised concerns with property conditions and quality of life. Both returned to the complex Tuesday for the event.
At the event, Gonzalez called for unity and told the crowd city staff will take action.
“We have to work together, I don’t care what color or race we are, we have to come together to fix it,” he said.
Woolridge said in a phone interview that she and Gonzalez instructed residents on how to report city code compliance violations while speaking with families.
“A lot of (residents) think that some of the crime would be reduced if the apartments would be more appealing to a different demographic of people,” Woolridge said.
Arlington Police have worked with federal agencies and community members to curb an increase in violent crime. Through the program, Operation Connect, APD has cooperated with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to file federal charges against offenders. The agency has also ratcheted up traffic enforcement to quell road deaths.