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Community leaders call Whitehaven ‘safe’ after mass shooting of 13 victims

After a mass shooting that left one person dead and 12 injured early Sunday (Feb. 19) morning in Whitehaven, community leaders and residents are pushing against the narrative that Whitehaven is a high-crime area.

Those area advocates, people who live and work there, maintain Whitehaven still is one of the safest communities in Memphis.

Police said two men – Ladarious Marion  and Julius Michael Freeman, both 21 – are charged in the incident.

Marion is charged with second-degree murder, five counts of attempted second-degree murder and five counts of employment of a weapon during a dangerous felony.

Freeman is charged with facilitation of second-degree murder, five counts of attempted facilitation of second-degree murder and five counts of possession of a firearm to commit a dangerous felony.

The victims were discovered about 12:40 a.m., Memphis police responded to a shooting at Live Lounge on Shelby Drive, where two women were found in critical condition, police said.

Officers later found more victims at Shelby Drive and Boeingshire.

Hazel Moore

“We are a community of homeowners in Whitehaven,” said business owner Hazel Moore, often called the “mayor of Whitehaven.”

She continued, “The homes here are passed down and have been in the family for generations. Those people involved in the shooting were not Whitehaven residents. They just happened to be at an establishment in Whitehaven when the shooting happened.”

Pearl Walker, executive director of I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood and Business Association, said “Of course, this is unfortunate. But there is so much more to Whitehaven than the shootings…There is a lot of community pride here. We just raised over $30,000 for a Christmas tree (in front of Southland Mall).”

Jason Shariff

Respect the Haven Jason Shariff concurred that “the people involved in that incident were not Whitehaven. This shooting spree is certainly not characteristic of the Whitehaven Community.

“I can’t recall an incident like that happening in Whitehaven ever, where that many people got shot at one time. Those people doing the shooting were not Whitehaven residents. They just happened to be at that establishment when some things happened.”

Walker said she regretted that the Whitehaven community might be looked at negatively after the incident

Walker added, “There is so much more to Whitehaven than these shootings … On March 1, we have a ribbon-cutting for the newly renovated Georgette and Cato Johnson YMCA. And new businesses are opening continuously.

Pearl Walker

“We are a safe, working-class community of mostly homeowners. That is Whitehaven. We are not the gun violence that made national news.”

Walker said the mass shooting could be the catalyst of an important conversation and appeal to lawmakers about state bills that could “devastate our lives.”

“There are three bills in the state legislature that we need to express our concern about to our representatives:

House Bill 1158 changes the permitless carry age from 21 years old down to 18 years old.

House Bill 120 would extend permitless carry from just handguns to shotguns and rifles as well.

House 192 would allow enhanced carry permit holders to possess guns in places where firearms are listed as prohibited.

“If these three bills are passed, then none of us should be surprised if more mass shootings begin to happen,” said Walker.


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