tv Dateline NBC NBC October 24, 2011 3:05am-4:00am EDT
>> like a gang fight broke out. >> tonight. >> i tell you what, you can fight me. >> award winning film makers take you through chicago's toughest streets where children grow up quickly and often die too soon. >> 24 students have been killed. that's worse than iraq, that's worse than afghanistan. >> you will be somebody. >> meet the grieving parents that blame their loss on gangs and guns. >> he was a great kid. it's like all the good kids are leaving, you know. the gang bangers, they're making it, our kids are dying. >> the school and police officials determined to stop kids from hurting each other. and the communities. >> save our kids. >> including the unlikeliest of heroes. >> 18, my best friend got killed. don't think cause y'all kids, it won't happen to you. >> trying to save these young people of chicago from
themselves. >> that was our house. it's a concrete slab back there. and that's where i taught blair how to play basketball. sometimes after school, i'd come home and there was blair in the backyard, still playing basketball. yeah. >> ron and annette holt, no relation to me, were proud to raise their son blair in chicago, a city they've lived in and loved all their lives. he is a 20 year veteran of the police department. she's a fire captain. >> did you ever come out and say blair, let me tell you what i saw today? >> yes. >> let me tell you what i saw
today and here is why it is not happening to you. >> though they divorced years ago, they say they worked as a team, helping their son avoid the pitfalls of growing up in chicago. as a police officer, ron knew how rech russ the city could be for innocents like blair. >> i worked at night, and i knew that his mom was at home. if i was dealing with a kid that had been shot or killed, i would literally come into the back door, go into his room. he would always fall asleep with the television on. i would always rub his head and say my kid is okay. i would sit there and rub his head and say my kid is okay. >> he was just so great. only a mother could say that,
but he was. >> i can't help it, i got skills. i was out there, i wasn't even trying. >> blair was extremely charismatic and popular. >> he knew what college he wanted. >> he already knew he wanted to go to clark atlanta. it was a done deal. no way he wasn't going there. >> and no reason to suspect he wouldn't make it. but then they didn't count on this. their 16-year-old son blair on a city bus on may 10th, 2007. that's him in the middle in a white shirt, on his way home from school with friends. >> you talk about a crowded bus and the kids not knowing what's about to happen to them. >> as the bus comes to a stop, security cameras catch another 16-year-old named michael pace rushing aboard. he pulls out a semi automatic handgun and opens fire. one of the bullets hits blair holt. you can see him, scooting across the floor of the bus in obvious pain. he had been hit in the stomach.
blair was rushed to the hospital. >> i remember just praying to god, please, just let him live. i said i don't care what, i will take care of him, i will quit my job. i just need blair to live. >> but blair's injuries were too catastrophic for doctors to repair. hours later, they pronounced the 16-year-old dead. >> it was the worst, god awful experience in life for anyone to have to go through. why us. why our child. why did this have to happen to our child. and it didn't have to happen. it didn't. >> yet it would keep on happening, with child after child, shot on the city's south and west sides. and the rest of the world may not have noticed had it not been for another 16-year-old boy like blair, just trying to make his way home from school one day.
his brutal death would prompt outrage. >> we cannot allow our young people to continue to be killed. >> but would it also lead to change? coming up. a city shocked, a grandfather's grief. >> he was sitting at this desk the night before he got killed, and that was the last conversation we had. >> when america now faces against violence continues. "ame against violence continues. " co.
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ron and annette holt laid their 16-year-old son blair to rest in may, 2007. two years later, blair's killer was convicted of the murder. >> tell me about the shooter. >> from what i was made to understand, this kid had been in this gang, being misguided and misdirected, looking to shoot another gang banger on the bus.
>> to the holts and many parents, chicago violence comes down to one word, gangs. gangs with 175,000 members makes the south and west side among the deadliest places for kids. consider this. in 2009, chicago lost 64 kids between the ages of 9 and 18 to violence. in 2010, it lost 69. >> you got one? >> ron and annette holt are determined to help save chicago's young. they've been holding rallies like this, urging legislators to get firearms out of the hands of minors. >> if you live in a community where you see day-in and day-out, you know someone that you lost, you have to stand up, move forward. you cannot back down. >> and whenever he can, ron meets with high school kids,
many who have seen classmates gunned down. >> 75% of your young brothers have been laid down by your young brothers. you have to raise your level of expectation and begin to value yourselves. i think a lot of them have been psychologically damaged and brainwashed, you ask me, with the glamourization of guns in america. if we reach one, you can change the errors of their ways, we have done well. >> his optimism is always being tested, like when this video taken september 24th, 2009, went viral on the internet. the now infamous clip shows students fighting a half mile from the school. one boy in red takes a board and smashes it over the head of a classmate, darrien albert.
he died from the injuries. >> tonight, a beating death caught on camera. >> suddenly, a city's problem with violent kids was national news. when ron holt heard about it, he knew he had to call the boy's grandfather. joe walker had been raising him. >> i had a chance to talk with his grandfather, joseph walker, and he picked up the phone. he said brother holt, i was waiting for you to call me. i said let's talk because i know you want to talk about it, i know you're angry, i know you're bitter, and then the flood gates just opened. >> he was sitting at this desk the night before he got killed. he was sitting right here. >> what was he doing? >> on his computer. that was the last conversation we had other than leaving the house that morning. >> i went through the same thing with the night before.
birth to death. reality we have to deal with now. >> he can pick through old photos of his grandson, but he cannot bring himself to look at the last image of darrien. >> you have not seen that video? >> never in my life, never. >> but you know what's on it? >> it woke up the world. my grandson's death woke up the world, woke up a nation. people saw that video and was mad. they were mad. >> it's time for it to end. we cannot allow our young people to continue to be killed. >> in fact, his death didn't just gallon vonnize the people of chicago, it caught the attention of the nation's political elite. >> talked to the president about this and he is firmly committed to this issue. >> in the wakeagoith promises ol
resources to address the violence. >> for me and for this administration, it was a call to action toenge that effects this entire nation. >> mayor daley, obama, come help with what's going on in y'all's city. >> but many are weary of political promises. they say good intentions on the part of city hall only made a bad situation worse. >> why didn't you answer? >> this man responded to those that said the city's plan is to blame for some of the violence. >> every kid matters,overhead t
but there's no bank holdup or police standoff here. in november of 2009, this was just another end of the school day at fenger high on chicago's south side. police weren't here because of what happened inside fenger but blocks from it less than two months earlier when darrien albert was beaten to death in an after school brawl. three men and two teens have since been convicted of his murder. after darrien's death, parents swarm the high school demanding answers. >> what did you do? why didn't you answer? what was your prevention plan? >> the target of their anger wasn't just fenger high but city hall and a controversial program that doomed some neighborhood schools. the plan's name, renaissance 2010. >> in 2010, you force the children into harm's way. >> renaissance 2010 was a school
reform plan, the brainchild of former chicago mayor richard daley. his goal had been to raise academic performance citywide in part by closing failing schools. one of those shuttered schools was in the community that turned into a military academy. they sent most of its students to fenger high miles away. some saw the move as the only way to give kids a better education immediately. >> we demanding that our children go back to all dell guard. >> many say the closing has been a disaster, forcing too many kids from rival neighborhoods and gangs to mix under the same roof. no surprise they say when tempers finally exploded in that afternoon attack that killed darrien albert. >> renaissance 2010 leads to exclusion of vulnerable students, increased school violence. we all know the results of that.
the terrible beating death of darrien albert. >> darrien's grandfather, joe walker. >> darrien's name has been taken by some as an example of what's wrong with the renaissance 2010. what do you say to that? >> you know what, mr. holt, i'm going to be honest with you. i'm not pointing fingers, but it could have been avoided. they knew the situation. everybody knew what was going on, mr. holt. everybody knew what was happening at the high school. it was the talk of the whole south side. >> what was the talk? >> the rivalry, the gang rivalry, about the kids. they can't get home safely. when you ride the bus, they throw bricks at them. this is every other day. >> it is not an easy process, we do it knowing the confrontation we're going to face. >> the man that had to face the criticism and angry crowds was ron huber man. at the time of the death, he was the head of public schools and the mayor's point man on school
reform. >> did you take into account the fact by closing certain schools kids would have to go to neighborhoods that they previously hadn't been to and perhaps cross gang lines and perhaps put themselves at more risk? was that taken into account? >> i believe it was taken into account. there's a big difference between making those decisions and beginning to draw boundaries based on gang boundaries. that would be a terrible mistake, i believe. >> he said the argument that renaissance 2010 somehow led to darrien's death is based in fiction, not fact. >> if you look at fenger high school, the school that darrien albert attended, it is one of the highest growing schools in terms of academic achievement and improvement. the level of violence today is substantially less than it has historically been. i would say these efforts are helping radio reduce the violence. >> he didn't believe renaissance 2010 led to darrien albert's death or increase in violence,
he insisted student safety is a top priority. >> this is a particular school where there was a conflict that broke out just recently between a group of students. >> he pointed out none of the shootings happened inside his schools. even so, the chicago public school system targeted $30 million for anti-violence initiatives, which included this recently created student safety center. it allowed security officers to monitor the halls, the classrooms, even the streets around the schools, often fertile ground for violence. >> one student hurt is one student too many. every kid matters, every life matters. we need to see these numbers go down and success will be defined by when they're down. >> so no victory lap now just because numbers are down? >> there's no victory lap here. >> huberman will not be around to see his plans to fruition. late last year, he resigned as head of chicago schools. his successor inherits the
challenge of keeping school kids safe. >> this bullet hole that paralyzed me. coming up, the children whose lives are changed forever. the parents who blame themselves. >> all i ever did was about there for him. he walked out the door. >> when "america now, faces against violence" continues. [ female announcer ] the best kind of pantiliner
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okay. you got shot in the back and it is right there. >> robert nixon was a high school freshman when he became one of 218 students shot in chicago during the 2009-2010 school year. >> can you tell us a little how it came to you getting shot? we want to help. >> reverend robin hood works with an organization called ceasefire. any time there's a shooting that seems gang related, the group tries to intervene to prevent retaliation shootings. >> so they pulled out a gun, then i tried to run back to the school, and he shot me.
that's when i blanked out. >> after the shooting, robert's mother blamed herself. she always drove him except on one day. >> i took him to school for safety purpose. and all i had to do was just pick him up at the door. all i had to do is just like i always do, just be there for him and he walk out the door. and it happened. >> this is a war front, gangs and turf. and it is something that is overwhelming in all the schools. >> robert has since recovered. but some young victims have had their lives forever altered by the violence. >> parents are encouraged to participate in therapy with their children so they can learn
how to continue to support their child's progress at home between visits. >> i'm trying to see what kind of activities they have to help. what do you want? >> the last time 14-year-old danny gilmore did that, he was on the way to school. >> one, two, three. >> it was april last year and i was just coming out of a convenience store when someone opened fire. he was hit at least three times. >> head down that way. let's see what you got. >> police said he was most likely an innocent victim of a gang feud. his doctor, lisa thornton, later gave a frank assessment of danny's prognosis. >> it is very unlikely that his legs will start to move again. his life will be in a wheelchair. we see too many cases of young people who are in the prime of their life who become permanently paralyzed from
violence. it is devastating. >> in the days that followed, danny's grandmother was constantly at his side, and the hospital assigned him a mentor, another victim of gun violence to help him through his ordeal. >> it is okay to feel the way you feel. don't think that you wrong. you're young, you got your life ahead of you. >> when he struggle, he sit in one spot and don't want to move. >> what do you want to do? there's plenty of young guys been caught in the same situation you in. you can do everything on your own. >> can't go downstairs on my own. >> when he was released from the hospital, he felt like a prisoner in his own home. his grandmother couldn't afford a motorized lift which would allow him to get up and down stairs by himself. >> how often do you think about that day and retrace in your mind exactly what happened that
day? >> every day. every day. sometimes i think if i took a little more time getting ready, might be different. >> nothing changes. >> nothing changes. >> his plight prompted scores of viewers to call and e-mail "dateline" when this report first aired last year. good samaritans from all over the country wanted to help danny and his family. now he has that motorized lift, thanks to a generous donation from the university of chicago, and the mayor's office here donated funds to make his bathroom wheelchair accessible. the trouble is, danny doesn't want to be in this wheelchair. >> i just don't. i don't like getting up, not being able to go outside like before.
so i just don't get up at all. >> that's worried his doctors who say his lack of exercise is threatening his health. this fall, they wanted him to enter a facility where he would live, undergo intensive treatment, even finish his high school studies. >> the doctors wanted him to be able to go to an institution where he would be -- he would live there. >> i don't think it's a good idea. >> i don't want it to be said that i want my grandchild to go live somewhere and then take the burden off me. it's not a burden on me. >> in the end, danny decided to go back to public high school this fall. the first time he has been back in a classroom since the shooting. he says he's enjoying it. that's a milestone for a teen that just weeks ago didn't want to venture out beyond his front porch. >> please welcome the superintendent, jodie weiss. [ applause ]
>> last year, city officials said they were doing all they could to keep kids like danny from becoming victims in the first place. the then head of the chicago police department had big hopes for getting firearms off the streets. >> this is a great day. we've taken in 2,972 weapons across the city. >> on hand to mark the moment were two parents who lost their son to gun violence. annette and ron holt, himself a policeman. >> but we can make a difference. we stand together to try and bring peace to our streets and get these weapons out of the hands of our children. >> i want to talk to you about the guns. i lived in the city 14 years. >> right. >> then and now, i wouldn't have any idea how to get a gun. yet you've got 12, 13, 14, 15-year-old kids can get them like that. how is that? >> it is a huge problem. to put it in perspective, 2006, 2007, 2008, we recovered on average 13,000 weapons a year.
los angeles and new york combined. they recovered around 12,000 weapons. then you throw in the fact we have the largest gang population, and i don't know why we do, but we do. you've got two bad mixes. a lot of guns and a lot of gang members. >> he said despite the bad news and horrific killings that captured the nation's interest, figures for the 2009, 2010 school year showed a drop in violent crime from previous years. >> we've had a 19% reduction in chicago public school students shot this year. 12% reduction in homicides. >> to him, the numbers were a strong sign that the city had been doing something right. he pointed out that the department and chicago's public schools traded information every day to figure out which kids were most likely to start trouble. he put more officers along school routes to prevent mob fights like the one that killed darrien. and he helped launch a tv
campaign encouraging witnesses of violent crimes to step forward. >> stop the violence. >> stop the silence. silence kills. >> but the department may have had others to thank, strange allies indeed. >> do you trust them, do you embrace them? >> i know these guys are not angels, but we're at a point we'll use any tool that we can get our hands on that we believe will work. >> coming up, the former gang leader known as "shotgun." >> who will win the battle. >> now he's risking his life to stop the violence. when "dateline" continues. take the finish challenge. my name is ashley and my blog is not without salt. when i take pictures of my food, you don't want to see spots on the dishes. i was using cascade actionpacs. they just didn't have that spot free look. when i took the finish challenge, i was thrilled. as soon as i opened up the dishwasher, i could tell there was a difference.
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between 11 and 15, specifically students that no other schools can handle. >> pull them pants up. if she told you -- >> marcus wright is assistant principal in charge of discipline here. he says many of the kids have been expelled from other schools. >> i said don't run, right? >> a good deal more suffer from behavioral disorders, and most of them share one thing in common. >> how many of these kids do you think are associated or belong to or with gangs? >> vast majority of them, and i know it for a fact. >> don't throw across the table. >> he did it. >> that was very inappropriate. did you have to say what you just said? >> marcus says these are chicago's most vulnerable children, the ones most likely to become victims or to victimize. >> you guys cannot do what you want to do, you have to follow the rules, man, and the order.
come on, man. we'll's get you something to eat. >> very impulsive and their behavior becomes very explosive, and the drop of a heartbeat. >> more prone to pick up a gun, more prone to use it. >> more prone to beat, use an object. >> if im's running a gang, is this the kid i send to do the dirty work? >> easily. violence, malice, strive, these are the things that are commendable on the streets. >> tell me what it's like in this school environment for you. do you understand why you ended up here? >> my anger, yes, pretty much it was. i got a lot out of control, you know. so that's how i ended up here. >> has it gotten you in trouble before? >> yeah. >> have you been taken to jail? >> yeah. >> i got locked up multiple times. i think three times here, two for fighting. >> and these boys seem to know
if not fully understand what their bad behavior can lead to. >> any of you have any thoughts as to why so many young people are getting shot and killed in this city? >> gang bangers, violence. >> why are so many people attracted to the gangs? >> like for somebody to look up to basically. like they don't have a father in their life or somebody that's trying to keep them on the right path, on the right road. >> marcus and montefiore are trying to convince them gang life is not the right road. but they also know they can't help every child. the wall of the principal's office is a shrine to students felled by gun violence. and those that don't get the message and bail out of here, the future isn't bright. >> what happens after here? >> jail or the psychiatric hospitals.
>> it is a bad boy school like everybody called it. it's not. >> how would you describe it. >> none of us crazy, we just need to learn how to act. you know. >> and marcus reminds them each day spent here trying is a small victory. >> each day you get up and come to school, you're my hero. even if you disagree with some of the things i say, you're still my hero because you're here. and i am my brother's keeper. >> not far from this school is another school, struggling to keep its students safe. an elementary school in a neighborhood ruled by a gang called the vice lords. >> the kids with experience come into school and say someone shot on the street. they experienced that, it is part of their norm. >> cheryl is the principal of
penn elementary. >> when he leave school, they go home to the same violence. so we need an ally, someone who's grown up in the community, a part of the violence and now wants to change that. >> give me ten. >> the principal found what she had been looking for in garrett brown. still, some find it hard to see this man as a role model for children. >> don't drop your head though. >> we're standing on familiar territory. 16th and lawndale. what's significant about this corner? >> this is my last hustle block, the last block i would get money on. >> derrick, aka shotgun, is a former gang chief of the vice lords. he got his nickname for his ease with a certain firearm, after losing his best friend to the streets, shotgun decided he needed a life change. >> you say hustle, you were
selling drugs here. >> selling illegal drugs, yes. >> and who would defend this area? >> me. who would protect it, me. who would win the battling, me. >> but he insists that's all behind him. >> give me a circle. >> now the man called shotgun wants to keep kids away from guns and violence. and he's hoping after school boxing lessons will do the trick. >> you not learning how to box to go outside and fight nobody. this is not what this is about. this is about discipline and making choices in life. when i was 12 years old, i went to jail for robbery. 18, my best friend got killed. don't think cause y'all kids it won't happen to you, because it can and it will. >> and if mentoring kids isn't a big enough challenge, shotgun is also trying to get guns off the
streets. >> they in here, they won't get no jobs. >> he and another former gang leader are making the men in this community a tempting offer. turn in your guns and we'll get you a job. >> this is like an assault rifle. fully automatic. >> shotgun has promised to find good old fashioned work for each gang member, and he's not just helping his pals. >> one there, frino. he was a big guy. we used to shoot at each other. we used to shoot at each other. now i got him a job. now the kids can walk by, see him working, say i want to be frino. >> when you look back at that life, did it feel wrong? >> not at all. from where i'm from, when i stepped out my door, that's all
i seen was a gang member, a gang chief. it was a way of life. with no guidance, you'll do anything. i want to be that guidance that i never had. >> but out here it's hard for kids to look up to responsible adults when they're so busy looking out for the rest of the gang. >> they're like a gang fight broke out, they run here. >> shotgun is about to be tested when a match is lit, tempers flare, and kids are burning for a fight. >> ain't nobody going to fight. i tell you what, you can fight me. >> when
which played out all over the city last night. >> last year, school calendar was another marred from fwlood. from fall 2009 to spring, 2010, 31 students were killed and another 213 were shot. >> this is one of the hottest spots. when it's quiet, it's kind of scary. >> a year ago with shootings skyrocketing around the city, shotgun began standing every night on the same corner where he once sold drugs. only now, he was looking to stop trouble, not start it. >> seeing if anything is going on. >> if like a gang fight broke out, they run. i'm going to see what's going on. >> on this particular night, two mobs of teenagers armed with sticks headed towards each other. >> david, he don't call me out, we going to fight.
>> ain't nobody going to fight. i tell you what, you can fight me. ain't nobody going to do no fighting. that ain't nothing. boy, you better put that down, man. >> when a kid pulled out a gun, shotgun let him have it. >> you better put that down, boy. >> with that, the police arrived. but it wasn't the kind of help shotgun was looking for. >> this stopping violence, peace gathering. >> how about we just move. >> all right. >> yes, ma'am. >> the way shotgun sees it, tonight's time bomb was best diffused by men like himself who often literally call the shots here, not by the police. >> that's why it is important for us to be out here. you probably got the youngest over there probably about 11. where the parents at, i don't know. kids, it is like they kill for fun. >> since this report first
aired, people have taken notice of shotgun's small victories on the streets. that fledgling boxing program he started with three kids in the back of a barbershop now serves over 200 with his own full time gym. >> somebody sees our story on tv, decide to come through and help us, and paying our rent for us. back in the day, honestly, i thought i was going to be on the streets my whole life. a dream to be doing what i'm doing now. >> he is not the only one that wants to make immediate, deep impact on lives. earlier this year, chicago got a new mayor, head of schools, and police superintendent. gary mccarthy wants his officers to do more than walk a beat. he'd like to see them mentoring kids in the areas they serve. >> if we get half the police department to engage a couple of
kids for a couple hours a week, you know, we're talking about thousands of kids. and who knows which kid we're going to touch that's going to discover the cure for cancer. so that's kind of the way i think. and i really think that something special is going to happen here. >> he also comes to this city with a reputation for reducing violent crime in new york city and newark, new jersey. he wants to build on the work of his predecessors, by tracking weekly crime numbers, holding his commanders accountable for making their district safer and getting guns out of the hands of career criminals. >> there's ways to identify the people that have the highest propensity to be involved in gun violence and take actions to try to prevent the next shooting, and that's what we're going to do, concentrating on the people, places, and things that are the root causes of gun violence in this city. >> congratulations, director holt. >> thank you. >> one of his foot soldiers will be ron holt as head of chicago's
alternative policing program, he not only has a job to do, he also has a promise to keep. born out of blood and loss. he visits his son's gravesight. >> . >> painfut. >> painfue. >> painful. you just think he was going to be somebody. he was going to be something great. we keep fighting for you, boy,
and everybody else. >> he was a good son just like you young people, name was blair holt. >> and he keeps talking to anyone who will listen. >> i stand to stop the violence. >> i stand to stop the violence. >> i stand to silence the violence. i am a face against violence. i stand! i know! i can! all right! all right! all right! thank you very much! ♪ >> it is something i think he would want us to do, keep going. he would say keep going mom, keep going dad, just keep going.
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