Murder victim Nizzel Anthony George
MINNEAPOLIS - It was June 26 when bullets littered a house in North Minneapolis. Inside was 5-year-old Nizzel George who was sleeping on a couch. He was shot in the back and killed.
A grand jury officially indicted George's alleged killer Friday, a kid himself, Stephon Shannon, 17, on first degree murder charges.
"He went out to shoot at that house knowing that people were there," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. "With an eye through fairness and justice, society has to have penalties when people do things."
A 15-year-old boy has also been charged as a juvenile, but Freeman says his office is petitioning the court to charge the boy as an adult.
And while prosecutors believe they have the people responsible in George's murder, who was two months shy of his sixth birthday, it is still a hopeless situation that doesn't seem to offer any silver lining.
Across town at Chicago and Franklin, a place that has seen its share of crime, there is a silver lining.
"Folks were afraid to stay at the bus stop. They were afraid to walk through the park. They were intimidated," said community organizer VJ Smith.
But the corner has changed after Smith, who heads the MAD DADS Minneapolis Chapter, started what is called "Amen Corner."
"We thought, 'Why don't we share the good news in the midst of all this,'" he said.
Amen Corner is celebrating its anniversary. A year ago this corner never saw families pay a visit. Today it's filled with them. Twice a week, people come together, especially kids and their parents, and step up to a microphone to share their stories and their talents.
"It has opened my eyes up a lot," said Dion Posey.
Posey credits Amen Corner for his turn around. Not long ago he was in trouble with the law, making bad choices.
"Thinking I'm bad, thinking I'm better than everybody," he recalled.
Today he has chosen to be the solution.
"I hope that I can be a help so this crime will stop," he said.
Smith believes combating the violence starts from the ground up and in the lives of parents.
"Our parents create these monsters, whether they abandoned them or introduced them to drugs and alcohol or abused them, they invent these problems. They produce these kids," he said. "Our parents have to start doing something different, and if our parents don't start doing something different we're going to continue to have problems."
That's why whenever a child takes the microphone at Amen Corner, Smith inevitable brings up their parents immediately after, thanking them for being involved in their children's lives.
It's that type of effort that has some here thinking more about the hopeful than the hopeless. And believing change can actually take place in a world where 5-year olds are senselessly killed.
"It starts right here on Amen Corner," said Smith.
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