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Residents organize community walk to address gun violence in North Charleston

  • Updated

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article included incorrect information about Jude Washington. Washington was found not guilty in 2001 of charges filed the year before. 

NORTH CHARLESTON — Jude Washington was shot outside a North Charleston auto body shop in April 2000.

His assailant left him to die with a half-dollar-sized wound in his head, but, miraculously, he survived after a four-day stay in the hospital. 

Washington, now 45, admits there were times he did wrong. But 10 years ago he joined a Summerville church and began to turn his life around. 

On July 8, he was one of dozens of people who joined a community walk organized to address rising gun violence in his hometown. 

"I want to lead these young people in a different direction," he said. "Their lives are still valued and they have a purpose." 

The community walk was held the evening of July 8 beginning at St. Matthews Baptist Church in the Macon community. Residents and community organizers, including many "O.G.'s," or old gangsters, who, like Washington, managed to escape the cycle of violence in North Charleston, walked through the neighborhood to speak with young people and raise awareness about gun violence. 

Since 2018, 675 people have been shot in North Charleston, 89 of them fatally, according to statistics from the North Charleston Police Department. 

The number of shootings has steadily increased, from 145 in 2018 to 177 in 2020. Ninety-nine people have been shot so far in 2021, with 15 people killed. 

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess, who attended the walk, attributed the rise in shootings to more guns on the streets. 

"Things have changed in this nation," he said. "The tool that everyone wants is a gun." 

Pastor Thomas Dixon, one of the event's organizers, said he helped start a community walk seven years ago outside the same church they were standing in front of today.

After several months, community members lost interest and the project fizzled. 

Since then, 151 people have been killed by gun violence in North Charleston, he said. 

"Seven years from now, in 2028, what will another group have to say about us? Will they say that we finished the job? That life got better in our community because of the work we put in consistently in North Charleston?" 

Among the participants of the walk was Ronald Smith, whose daughter, Ronjanae, was killed at a North Charleston party in May after rival gang members opened fire. Fourteen other people were wounded in the shooting. 

With Ronjanae's mother, Katrina Sinclair, Ronald Smith has started a nonprofit organization, Positive Vibes Ronjanae Smith, to address gun violence in North Charleston. 

The organization plans to open a headquarters at the end of the month, Smith said.  

Reach Steve Garrison 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT.

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