AURORA, Colo – Following the shooting of five people overnight, including three teens, community leaders are working on ways to curb youth violence.
Inside Heavy Hands Heavy Hearts gym in Aurora, there are fighters. They punch, they kick and they train. The style of fighting isn’t just about beating an opponent in the ring. It’s really about beating a cycle of violence in the community.
“You’re going to see a bunch of kids in here learning how to respect themselves and learning how to love themselves,” Lumumba Sayers told FOX31.
Sayers is a professional MMA fighter. He grew up in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood.
“I was in middle school during the Summer of Violence. Lost a lot of friends. Lost a lot of cousins. Still losing a lot of cousins right now,” he said.
He started his gym and community center in Aurora about five years ago to help kids find an alternative to street gangs. At the facility, they offer boxing, MMA, a computer lab, game room and a church service each Sunday, among other things.
“It’s good that they have somewhere to turn to. They can come here and they can hang out with us and have a positive place to be,” Sayers said.
Without the center, he says more kids would fall into patterns of violence and crime. But, Sayers believes there is much more work to be done.
In just the past few weeks, at least five teenagers have been shot in Aurora.
On Dec. 16, 16-year-old Frederick Robert was shot and killed at the Aurora Hills Apartments. The next week, on Dec. 27, Nathan Poindexter was shot and killed inside JCPenney at the Town Center at Aurora mall.
Saturday night, Aurora Police say three of the five victims shot at the Courtyards at Buckley apartments are between 16 and 18-years-old.
In a statement, Aurora Police Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson said, in part, “We need the community to come together with us to stop this senseless violence to protect our youth.”
“I feel like if we did more to talk to these kids. A lot of people are afraid of these kids. But crazy thing about it is these kids want to be disciplined the right way. Not thrown in jail, not down talked. They just want somebody to love them,” Sayers said.
This is a fight he says he will not give up on.
“We can have all the programs in the world but until we build relationships where these kids can trust us that’s what’s changing lives,” he said.