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FRAZIER: Facing violent crimes among Vicksburg’s youth

As I sat there subconsciously wringing my hands together, I tried to relax my breathing to slow the beat of my heart.

I had not planned on coming into a courtroom, but there I was — sitting in wait to see what would transpire.

From past experiences, courtrooms ignite my anxiety, and in this case, even though I was there only as an observer, the apprehension of not knowing what was going to happen still gripped my emotions.

There were others there in the courtroom — which I assumed were more than just spectators — most likely family, friend or clergyman.

I could only imagine what they were feeling or how they were even sitting there in their composed state. Surely they wanted to cry or scream or vomit out the pain that was coursing through their hearts.

The clock ticked and we all waited. When the judge emerged, we all stood in respect.

It wouldn’t be long now. Court was in session and when the allegorical gavel fell, all would know the charge.

At around 2 p.m. on Monday, a call was made to the Vicksburg Police department. Gunshots had been heard north of town. Law enforcement responded and a body was found.

It was apparent the victim had died from a gunshot wound and witnesses at the scene provided information that led to two arrests — one of a 15-year-old boy who allegedly pulled the trigger and the other of a 29-year-old woman who had purportedly instructed him to do it.

Shackled in chains and dressed in orange prison garb, each made their appearance before the court.

The boy was called first. Aside from his height, he looked like a child — he was a child — someone in the courtroom’s child. It was hard for me to fathom how someone so young could have committed such a crime.

During the hearing, the teen did his best to act like a man. There was no wailing or outbursts, just a look of fear.

When the charge was read — first-degree murder — I could see no tears from where I sat in the courtroom, but surely they were sliding down his young face.

They were on the woman who sat rows in front of me. I so wanted to hand her a tissue, but what could that have done — made me feel better?

To be tried as an adult for his actions, the youth’s bond was at $2,000,000; he was then escorted out of the courtroom.

Next, came the woman.

She too was being charged with first-degree murder, but what really made my stomach turn was the fact she was also being charged with instructing a juvenile to commit a felony.

Sadly, I could feel no empathy for her, because if found guilty, she, along with playing a role in snuffing out one life, would ultimately be responsible for stripping away another’s  — one who hadn’t even really begun his life.

We talk of how there is a problem with violence being committed by our youth. This is true, but we have to ask ourselves, how much can this be attributed to adults in the community?

This recent crime is an example of how the power and authority of someone older, someone more powerful and/or with perceived authority can influence another to do things they may not want to do, but they do because the pressure is incessant.

In the wake of the Me Too movement, there was much discussion about the wrongness of how those in power took advantage of their positions and preyed on those vulnerable to their actions.

Could this local situation be comparable?

Crime committed by youth is escalating. Controlling it is nearly impossible because the root of the problem is much deeper than just their sometimes-deadly actions.

Children are not born bad — they learn bad, whether it is from an adult or a contemporary who was wrongly influenced by someone else.

So the real question is, how do you root out the influencers, those who themselves, could have possibly been vulnerable when they too were young?

This is a problem that no law enforcement group can fix because this is a social issue, one in which requires all of us to work together for the good of not only the community but these young people, who for whatever reason have sought out attention and guidance in the wrong places.

Churches, non-profit organizations, civic groups, businesses and all those dedicated to keeping our community safe need to find a way to work in tandem; to be a safety net, not a dragnet, for our young people.

This is certainly much easier said than done and I applaud all those who are working endlessly for the betterment of Vicksburg.

Let’s continue to support them in whatever way they need, so no one else has to sit in court and witness a child being charged with murder.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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