Local pastor hoping for change in Northside neighborhood after 7-year-old's murder

Using his legal skills, Smith and a team of other lawyers will offer free consultations to the community on topics ranging from family law, traffic tickets, and sealing criminal records from the past.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The case of the first Jacksonville child in 2018 to be killed by gun violence remains unsolved.

Billboards for 7-year-old Tashawn Gallon remind drivers of the $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Those outside the Northside Jacksonville community have criticized the silence of possible witnesses near the Durkeeville scene, but a local pastor from the area hopes being vocal about poverty will stop the cycle of violence in crime ridden neighborhoods.

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Stephen A. Smith, a pastor and lawyer in Jacksonville, said hearing of Tashawn's murder during crossfire hit close to home.

"[Tashawn] was shot on Mount Herman Street, I played pop warner football for Mount Herman Football right there on Emmett Reid, so Durkeeville is home," Smith said.

Despite once being a neighborhood steeped in history, Smith said without community leaders, many in similar areas have lost hope.

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"They've lost hope for life, and hope in a better future. future, and that leads to people giving up on doing it the right way," he said.

After hearing of Tashawn's murder, Smith began organizing a young male forum entitled "Come Up" to help "stem the tide of negative choices."

Using his legal skills, Smith and a team of other lawyers will offer free consultations to the community on topics ranging from family law, traffic tickets, and sealing criminal records from the past.

"Sometimes there are charges they could have avoided if they knew the law up front," Smith explained. "It's not getting people out of trouble, it's showing them how to navigate the law."

Members of law enforcement will also advise attendees on how to better interact with police. Smith said another forum on economics and budgeting for follow the legal event at a later date.

The "Come Up - Navigating the Law" forum will be held April 7 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at church Hephzibah EPC, 3706 Turton Ave. For more information, call 904-270-9070.

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