- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2020

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) - A day after her appearance before the Greenwood City Council to talk about the loss of her son from gun violence, a Greenwood mother remains skeptical about whether local officials will follow through with promises to address crime.

“Everybody was so hyped about this and that, but until yesterday no one showed any interest or any empathy, sympathy,” Janice Johnson, the mother of Kenton Johnson, said Wednesday. “No elected official reached out to me. That was a horrible incident, my son being murdered like that.”

Kenton Johnson, 24, the youngest of Janice Johnson’s seven children, was gunned down Jan. 24 at the corner of Avenue I and Broad Street.

His death was the first of 19 reported homicides that have occurred in Greenwood or other parts of Leflore County this year. All but one have involved guns.

Janice Johnson accompanied Loretta McClee, a community activist, to the City Council meeting Tuesday.

Her son’s death, as well as three other homicides that have occurred in the past three weeks, are the only 2020 homicide cases handled by the city in which no arrests or progress has been made, Police Chief Jody Bradley told the council Tuesday.

Johnson asked council members to put themselves in her shoes by imagining if they had lost someone to gun violence. On Wednesday, though, she said, “They need to do more than talk. They really need to get out there and do something.”

Johnson did say she was glad she had attended the council meeting and would like to attend more. However, she also asked why local leaders can’t be more communicative with the public.

“No one holds news conferences to try to get Black men together. Where are they?” she asked, referring to local leaders. “Nobody cares about what’s going on. It’s like everybody just deals with it.”

Johnson suggested that local leaders hold a press conference encouraging peace in the community. That would demonstrate to citizens that leaders care, she said.

Johnson also said the community must come together, and men need to learn conflict resolution.

“They would rather shoot and kill each other than be men and disagree and talk it out and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “You’re not always right about everything; you’re not always wrong about everything, either.”

If people had a proper channel to vent frustrations, then maybe they wouldn’t pull out firearms, she said.

Johnson said the gunshots she heard the day her son was killed still ring in her ears months later.

“I still hear those gunshots. That’s not a lie; that’s an honest-to-God truth,” she said.

She recalled she was sick that day, lying down at home, and had just taken Theraflu. She was in the process of falling asleep when she heard “awful, dreadful gunshots,” she said.

“My heart just stopped,” she said. “I thought, ’That was Buddy. Oh, my God, that’s Buddy,” Johnson said, using her son’s nickname.

“I felt it in my heart,” Johnson said, calling it a message from God.

Her daughter, who was with her, had told her not to say that, Johnson said. Thirty minutes later, Johnson was told that her son was dead.

“And all of a sudden it was Buddy,” she said. “He was murdered, gunned down like a dog, and people witnessed that.”

Although there reportedly were a number of people out in the area where her son was killed, Johnson said fear of retaliation prevents witnesses from reporting crimes to authorities.

Now, she said, she’s barely keeping it together.

“Some days are OK. Some are awful, and I’m not holding up. I’m hurting,” she said. “I have to hurt while still living life. I have to deal with the facts that my baby boy was murdered.”

Her son’s death has made her reclusive and distrustful of others outside her family. Furthermore, Johnson said, people who have lost loved ones to gun violence need organized services for dealing with their grief. “We don’t have anything like that,” she said. “There needs to be some kind of professional help.”

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