Community needs to address violence issues

Published 12:26 am Sunday, August 6, 2017

Two Adams County residents recently received 30-year prison sentences, punishment for committing atrocious crimes against other human beings.

Shalae M. Lewis was given three decades in prison to think about her actions after police say Lewis habitually abused her own toddler.

Prosecutors said the woman threw the not-quite-2-year-old girl down a flight of stairs. The resulting skull fracture was one of several injuries the young girl suffered at the hands of her mother.

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Police at the time of the mother’s arrest said the tiny girl had suffered broken ribs — that were healing — and burns on her body.

The revelation of what had occurred was horrifying. Even longtime law enforcement investigators working the case said it was among the most horrific child abuse cases they had ever seen.

While the abuse case is particularly heinous because the victim was so tiny and helpless, another criminal case was equally as coldblooded.

Lavandar Williams also received a 30-year sentence this week for his crime. Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2015 shooting death of Charles Knight.

The two men apparently got into an argument at M&M grocery store and while Knight was attempting to flee, Williams retrieved an AK-47 and shot approximately 13 rounds at Knight. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

While vastly different in scope and circumstances, both of these cases epitomize huge problems our community faces.

The biggest problem is a large number of people who simply have no regard for the value of human lives.

What person — even an immature person — feels good about throwing a toddler down stairs or burning a small child? Someone who can do that may deserve a far greater punishment than 30 years in prison.

Ditto for the shooting between adults. In such cases, many people will blame the semi-automatic rifle.

But an AK-47 is harmless, unless it’s in the hands of a deranged person. Anyone who would pump more than a dozen rounds at someone who is running away is also someone who lacks a shred of sound judgment.

Our community — and national — justice system is rife with such horrible examples.

The challenge is: how on earth do we stop this seemingly pervasive lack of respect for one another?

No easy solution seems clear, but perhaps the answer is through a combination of law enforcement and education.

Our justice department, from the prosecutors to the judges, must crack down on violent crime and take a tough stance on it. Perhaps if penalties were increased it would become more of a deterrent.

On the education side, perhaps we’re missing some key steps in the quest to increase state test scores.

Perhaps rather than having an A or a B school as our goal, we should start with simply focusing on teaching students to read, but also to care for one another and respect one another.

That’s a simplistic view of the world, but when people walking next to you in the streets of Natchez would throw a child down a staircase or pump rounds in the back of a fleeing man, we need simple goals.

As a Christian, clearly getting more people exposed to the principles found in the Bible would help resolve the overriding problems. But at the same time churches all over America are shrinking, setting up a daunting task.

We need our community’s collective brain to begin discussing ways to solve the problems of violence, before another life is taken and another soul spends decades behind bars.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or