Party set near shooting scene

Less than two weeks ago, Anthony Jerard Jones, 29, was shot and killed with a stolen New Orleans Police Department gun while he sat inside a car in the 5200 block of Evangeline Street.

Saturday evening, only blocks away from the shooting that killed Jones and injured another woman also sitting in the car, local residents listened to music, spooned up snow cones and chatted with Baton Rouge police officers at the summer’s first Cease 4 Peace block party sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project.

The block party’s location — at Byron and Annette streets — was deliberately placed near last Thursday’s homicide scene, organizers said.

“The violence has to stop,” said Tonja Myles, CEO of Set Free Indeed Ministries, which also helped organize the party.

Myles said many children in the 70805 ZIP code area grow up surrounded by violence, and the goal of Cease 4 Peace is to introduce them to hope, help and healing.

The BRAVE Project began in the fall of 2012 after East Baton Rouge Parish received a $1.5 million federal grant to help fight violent crime, specifically in the 70805 ZIP code area, the locale for about 30 percent of the parish’s slayings while containing only 13 percent of the population.

Cease 4 Peace will host events every three weeks, always in crime hot spots, Myles said, in an effort to bring a positive influence into crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Along with BRAVE and Set Free Indeed Ministries, the Salvation Army, Brookstown Civic Association, Elevate Church, and the Mandinka Warriors Motorcycle Club also chipped in to help teach youths that violence will not solve their problems, organizers said.

“I’m going to be part of the solution, not the problem,” said DeShon Ruffin, vice president of the Mandinka Warriors, a club of 40 motorcycle riders that was out promoting peace and love at the block party.

Ruffin, also known as “Tak-Ova” in his riding crew, knows all too well how crime can negatively affect one’s life.

Ruffin spent time at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center beginning in 2005 because of drug convictions, he said. But with two young children, he knew he needed to turn his life around.

“They’re always on me,” Ruffin said, adding, “I can’t do for them in prison.”

Now, Ruffin works as a barber, but spends most of his free time with family or riding around with the Mandinka Warriors promoting positive community programs such as Cease 4 Peace.

“That’s the only way you’re going to stop this killing. Too much senseless killing,” he said.

JoAnn Lazare, who attended Cease 4 Peace along with a herd of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said events such as Saturday’s help show the children that people care about them,

“The kids see a lot of violence, on the streets and stuff, so they need to see something more positive,” Lazare said.

BRAVE director Sgt. Herbert “Tweety” Anny said the most important thing he hopes to establish is a sense of trust between the community and law enforcement.

“The community has to begin, along with law enforcement, to share information” — before differences escalate into violent crimes, Anny said.