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Activists speak out against recent homicides, share ideas on the fight against crime in Toledo

Julian Mack is a CSRN activist. Former gang leader Willie Knighten Jr guides people away from a life of crime. Both think change can come but everyone needs to help.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Two local activists with different backgrounds are sharing ideas on how to curb the violence in Toledo.

One of those activists, Julian Mack, is a spokesperson for the Community Solidarity Response Network

The other, Willie Knighten Jr., is a former gang leader who now works with people living that life.

Both are in the fight against crime. 

"Anybody who knows something needs to come forward with their knowledge," Mack said. "Whether it's the mayor or the person that lives next door to you or me."

There is an outrage that police have not made any arrests in the deaths of 7-month-old Desire Hughes or 10-year-old Damia Ezell.

Knighten admits to once living a life of crime. He has his own unique perspective.

"Coming from the streets, I'm almost certain it was a young person that did it," said Knighten.

RELATED: Glass City Gangs: A WTOL 11 Investigation

Mack is a Black Lives Matter activist.

He says some of it has to do with the distrust of law enforcement.

"There's been a bastardization of what people think is a 'G-code,' but at some point, some of these wires got crossed, where people think that 'oh, you snitching,'" said Mack. 

He says no one should be protected if they kill a baby or a child.

RELATED: Family holds vigil for infant girl killed in drive-by shooting, pleads with the community to come forward with answers

It's a sentiment Toledo city leaders echo as Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz says it's retaliation among a small group of people.

"That is retaliation for gang or drug activity," Kapszukiewicz said.

"I believe it could be gangbangers. Normal people don't just go shooting into cars in broad daylight," Knighten said. "Right now there are mostly these cliques, these squads. Five or six individuals that hang tight. They have a scoreboard out there."

The focus now is on a solution to the violence. 

Both activists believe there isn't one specific answer.

"My opinion is that there are things in our immediate reach; ways and changes that we can make directly on our block, on our city, that can put those on notice that are creating senseless acts of violence," Mack said.

That includes activists, city leaders and families banding together.

"We have to be more accountable. These parents, if your son leaves, look and see what car he gets in. Ask him who he's hanging with. Look at his social media," Knighten said. "This is Toledo, Ohio. This is a small city. They should have a 90%-plus conviction rate." 

But the justice system needs your help, Knighten says.

Mack says he believes there will be some type of organizing to make their collective voice heard, while Knighten says we can still take control of the city by being loving but stern with youth.

RELATED: 'Beyond heartbreaking' | Toledo mourns another child lost in drive-by shooting

If you have any information on anything that may help solve Damia and Desire's homicides, or any crimes in the city, you can call or text Crime Stoppers at 419-255-1111. 

You can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.


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