RIVERDALE, Ga. - A little more than 24 hours after a shooting sent Walmart shoppers in Riverdale scrambling for cover, one community organizer is holding an anti-gun violence event essentially across the street.
Bruce Griggs, a former youth probation officer turned gun violence prevention activist, is calling it Boys To Men Lock-in.
Police said suspect in the Walmart shooting was 18-year-old Matthew Thomas. Griggs’ hope is to connect with teenage boys and young men before it’s too late.
"Inside of the store," Griggs said. "We’ve got to work to change these young people’s behaviors. We have to work to change their values, their thoughts."
Preston Passmore, who is 15, said he has already witnessed the horrors of gun violence recently during a family picnic at Vine City Park.
"I was at the park and then all the sudden we heard boom, boom, boom, then we saw somebody shoot a gun," he said. "So we started running."
Passmore said no one was hit, but it still was enough to shake him up.
Amid the recent wave of gun violence both in the Atlanta area and across the country, Griggs, who started a foundation called Save Our Sons had this grim prediction.
"The violence is going to get worse this summer than it’s ever been before," he said.
The "Lock-in" featured basketball, African song and dance, motivational speakers, and giveaways.
"We’ve got to attack it just like we did COVID," Griggs said. "There are germs of COVID, there are germs of the hood disease."
According to the CDC, murder is the leading cause of death for Black boys and men from ages one to 44.
Griggs fears that number will only grow under Georgia’s so-called constitutional carry bill.
"When that law trickles down to the hood, those kids that I work with, mom interpreted that law is saying everybody can carry a gun I’m going to get my son a gun," he said. "He’s 15. And she gets him a gun."