Lexington faith leaders make plea: 'The violence must stop'

Posted at 10:21 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 09:11:07-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Standing outside the Lexington Public Library Tuesday night, faith leaders from 'Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action' (B.U.I.L.D.) decried the string of gun violence incidents in the city.

"In God's name," said Bishop Mark Van Koevering, of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. "The violence must stop." 

The setting of their press conference was deliberate, the speakers explained. The area outside the library was the same place where 25 gunshots rang out one night in July.

"No matter where you go in our city," said Rev. Richard Gaines, of Consolidated Baptist Church. "You cannot escape the violence."

The shooting death of Jayontai McCann, 23, early Tuesday morning was the 29th homicide in Lexington in 2021. All have been as a result of gun violence. The city is on pace to break last year's record of 34 homicides. 

B.U.I.L.D. has called on Mayor Linda Gorton to implement the Group Violence Intervention Strategy, which the group's leaders said have helped cities across the country reduce homicides.

Bishop John Stowe, of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, said former Mayor Jim Gray spearheaded an analysis of the initiative in 2018, but that recommendations to implement the GVI have been ignored by Mayor Gorton.

A spokesperson for Mayor Gorton sent the following to LEX 18 in response to B.U.I.L.D's claims:

“We all mourn this loss of life. We mourn each individual. That is why we have worked so hard on programs that are specific to Lexington’s needs … One Lexington, Safety Net, hospital-based violence intervention, mediation, and community partnerships. In addition, we implemented five of six recommendations from BUILD. We have made progress in addressing what is really a national challenge, and we are committed to keep working.”