Orange County

Following gun violence involving youth in Orlando, focus shifts to preventing children from ‘developing into killers’

ORLANDO, Fla. — Cases of gun violence are on the rise across the U.S. and in Orlando.

Commissioner Regina Hill spoke out after one of her family members was a recent victim of gun violence.

The Orlando Police Department reported it has seen more than a 20% increase in gun violence cases from January to May, as compared to the same time last year.

READ: ‘It’s really just senselessness’: Gang violence to blame in shooting death of girl, 16, police say; man arrested

In two recent cases, the suspects arrested have been teenagers.

The shootings shocked the community.

One was a 16-year-old shot to death after leaving a party with her friends.

READ: ‘She wanted to make the world a better place’: Police continue to search for suspect who fatally shot girl, 16, at Orlando gas station

Another was a mother killed in her own driveway after deputies said two men followed her and her friend from dinner. The first arrests have been made in both cases.

The similarity: Officials say teenagers were involved in those horrific crimes, and officers and deputies are still looking for more young suspects.

Both families are begging for their loved ones’ killers to come forward.

READ: ‘She will never be forgotten’: Dozens gather for vigil honoring 16-year-old shot and killed in Orlando

In the case of murdered Orange County mother, Roxana Sanchez, suspect Ja’Quarius Sentel McCray was arrested. He’s 17.

In the case of murdered Evans High School student Tavyiah King, suspect Jacarious Simpson was arrested. He’s 18.

Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill said King, her niece, was an honor student with dreams of becoming a veterinarian and was a victim of gang violence.

READ: “They took my baby girl”: 16-year-old girl killed in shooting in Orlando

Detectives said she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was not involved in a gang, but Simpson was.

Watch Monday’s news conference below:

“We don’t want any more of our children to be killed,” Hill said. “Nor do we want our children to have to be labeled murderers.”

Simpson recently graduated and was heading to college to play football.

READ: 9 Investigates: Police diversity in Central Florida

“(He had a) scholarship on the way to do great things and (made) one poor decision,” Hill said. “I’m not saying we’re dealing with a hopeless generation. It’s up to us, to communities … giving these young kids hope again, love again, unconditionally.”

Deputies said the 17-year-old arrested in Sanchez’s murder was not in a gang, but he had a long criminal history and fell through the cracks.

“We got to tap into the essence of that youth so that we can prevent them developing into killers,” Hill said.

READ: Documentary highlighting soldiers’ struggle with PTSD has local ties, to screen in Orlando

Hill said there are programs that are “bridging that gap” like Parramore Kid Zone, My Brother’s Keeper and the youth-focused Neighborhood Patrol Team.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.