Mayor Hancock ‘sounds the alarm’ on youth violence in Denver

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DENVER (KDVR) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he is very concerned about the recent youth violence. 

“I am sounding the alarm today, there is a state of emergency in our city with regards to our young people and these groups that are perpetrating violence haphazardly,” he said. “Unfortunately you got people like Davarie who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet their whole life of opportunity and potential is lost because of this sense of violence.”

Davarie Armstrong was identified by his family as the latest victim of gun violence in Denver. He was shot and killed at a house party on Saturday evening.

His mother, Angel Shabazz said, “Him being an upstander like always, trying to diffuse something. It just went bad. His life was taken for no reason. He was brutally murdered by kids taking other kids lives. This didn’t have to go this way. There is nothing in this world worth them doing my baby like that.”

Davarie’s uncle, Barry Overton said, “it was devastating. Even seeing everything that’s been going on in the past year with youth violence, you never imagine it would be one of your family members. To wake up to the news, it was surreal. I didn’t want to believe it was true, I still don’t want to believe it’s true.”

His friends, coaches, teachers and family members say Davarie had a heart of gold, was a star athlete and student, and had already made an impact on the community.

“He was an ambitious athlete, a leader, my son was outgoing, outspoken, charismatic, handsome. He was so charming, he could light up the room when he walked in,” Shabazz said. “He knew how to be a leader, he knew how to be an advocate, an ally for everybody. He knew how to be genuine, be himself. And that’s the reason so many people love him.”

They called him “Mr. Popular” because everyone wanted to know him.

“I had no idea how much he impacted our community, how much people loved him. There’s people who say they know him from the RTD bus, he would give up his seat for them every day when he was going to Morey,” Shabazz said. “That’s how they know my son because he was one of the kids who was so polite.”

She added, “It fills my heart to know I’m not doing this by myself because he touched so many people.”

Mayor Hancock said he will be announcing funding for youth violence programs this week. “We are very concerned. Never want our city to accept what is happening as normal,” he said.

So far this year, eight people under the age of 18 have been killed in the city, Hancock said.

“My heart breaks as a father, an uncle, my heart breaks for those families. We will not stop until we bring those responsible to justice,” Hancock said.

The city will support non profit organizations to help youth in the city. “We’re going to touch about a thousand young people as a result of those efforts,” Hancock said.

“We’re going to lean in even more, meeting with a lot of those anti-gang activists and non-profits in the next 24-28 hours, work on a plan we can advance together.”

The mayor said he wants to work with the private sector to get resources, acknowledging it will take a community-wide effort. “I grew up in this city and watched after the summer of violence the community pull together from all different sectors to say we’re not going to allow this to happen,” he said.

“We need the full breadth and power of this community, beyond government, beyond police, to respond and say ‘no more, we’re not going to do this. We are going to find a way as parents, as mentors as members of this community to put a stop to that’ and I will stand arm and arm with them to help do that.”

He said it’s too early to assume it’s a gang problem, although police are monitoring and investigating all possibilities.

Hancock said, “Right now I can say it’s senseless violence that’s taking the lives of young people way to soon and quite frankly terrifying the hell out of our community. As a city, this is not who we are as Denver. Unless we work hard to stem the tide, it will become something as normal and that’s not something I’m willing to let happen in our city.”

Overton agrees it will take everyone working together to address the youth violence.“It takes a village to raise a child. We have to get back to that. We have a lot of youth misguided right now and I think we need to see more programs,” he said.

“It’s going to take the community. We have to take back our community. We have seen the civil unrest to hold police accountable. We also have to hold our youth accountable. We have to hold one another accountable for taking care of our youth. I think it’s easy to pull a trigger because we see it on tv. What we don’t see is the heartbreak. We don’t see a young sister crying. We don’t see a mother that has put everything into raising her son and protecting him, to have his life taken away in the blink of an eye. They have to have an understanding that split second decision has a ripple effect and repercussions that will last for decades.”

Armstrong’s family doesn’t want him to become a statistic. “I want his legacy to be there are good boys out there, there are young men who are just as passionate and genuine as he is and these kids can’t be taken away from us like this,” Shabazz said.

“I don’t want his legacy to be just another kid, I want his legacy to be a lesson. I hate to say it, but it is a lesson. This is not just another life, not just a kid that we could go on and move from, he was going to make accomplishments. He was going to impact us some shape, form, fashion. He did and was going to do so much and was going to do so much more. This was just the beginning. If you all let him be who he was, we could’ve seen great things.”

A family friend has set up a fund to support Armstrong’s family. 

Denver police say no arrests have been made. If you know anything, you are encouraged to call our partners at Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-STOP(7867). You can remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward.

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