Therapists at schools to offer support following fatal Cedar Rapids shooting – KCRG

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – After two teens were killed and two more were injured in a Cedar Rapids shooting early Saturday morning, school therapists are prepared to help students grieving the losses.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District said the two 18-year-olds who were killed, Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram, had either graduated or were about to graduate from Cedar Rapids schools.

This week, therapists from Tanager Place and Grant Wood AEA will be available to talk with students, teachers and staff from all Cedar Rapids high schools.

“It’s our responsibility to step up and take action,” he said. “It’s not enough to just say we want change. What we really want to happen is we want to see students taking that change and being empowered to make this community a safe place, whether that means finding new ways to resolve conflicts that don’t involve guns … or whether that involves talking to the mayor, talking to the City Council.”

Our world these days can be a scary place, and the closer it hits to home, I think the more real the uncertainty of our world becomes, Tanager Clinician Supervisor Lindsey Swales said.

Swales said theres no way to predict how someone might respond to what could be a traumatic situation, like this one.

During a Youth Services and Public Safety committee at City Hall on Monday evening, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said he had “every confidence that the murders on Saturday morning are going to be solved” and requested those with information come forward. Additional officers have been assigned to the investigation, he said.

Some people may be experiencing fear. Some may be experiencing anger — a very wide range of responses, she said.

Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram, both 18, were shot and killed while sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot of Iowa Smoke Shop at 70 Kirkwood Court SW when someone walked up to the car and opened fire at about 1:20 a.m. Saturday. Two others in the vehicle — a man and woman, both 19 — suffered life-threatening gunshot wounds.

On Monday morning, students at Washington High School held a walkout in response to the recent shootings and to protest gun violence.

“We need change, and we need to do better and we need to be bolder because we are losing so many people to gun violence and we need that to stop,” Burns said. “I have (seen) countless students pass away that should be graduating with me on Saturday, and they don’t get that chance.”

One thing parents can do is just help their child to find that meaning and purpose in these difficult things and just help them with that follow through, she said.

No matter how theyre feeling, Swales says each therapist will try to create a safe space for every person to process what theyre going through.

“Our information does not show that this exists with these gangs and groups within the city,” he said. “Cedar Rapids gangs do not, and in fact, some members become aligned with members of their rival group for a short time and then they revert back to their original group.

Just validating their emotions, she said. Letting everybody know that, whatever it is that youre feeling, whatever it is that youre experiencing, that that is OK.

“We want Matrell’s and Royal’s names to be the last names on that list (of students who have been killed) — not the beginning, not the middle, but the end,” said Washington High senior Quintin Gay. “We don’t want to see any more deaths.”

Swales said grief can be something that hits people at a later time, so people can still make appointments to talk with someone at Tanager even after schools let out on June 6, by calling 319-286-4503 or emailing [email protected]

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) — Hundreds of students walked out of classes at Washington High School today, demanding legislative change and an end to gun violence after two 18-year-olds were shot and killed over the weekend.

18-year-old Matrell Johnson had graduated from Metro High School in January, according to a GoFundMe. 18-year-old Royal Abram was expected to graduate with his peers from Washington on Saturday. An opportunity he’ll now never get. Today, his former classmates walked for him instead.

Two of the student organizers, Quintin Gay and Darshuan Smith said the walkout was to honor the legacy of the two victim’s and empower students to make a change.

Hundreds of students participated in the walk out, which lasted about 15 minutes, many of them toting signs with messages such as “Give peace a chance,” “We want peace,” “Not 1 more,” and “Demand change.”

“He was so kind-hearted, such a beautiful soul. He always put his friends before himself,” said Lily Burns of Royal, who she knew from school. Burns said she participated in the walkout today to use her voice for those who were killed by gun violence over the weekend.

Jerman described the affiliation of those involved as a “hybrid gang” — different from traditional gangs with a hierarchy, a leader and an “undying loyalty” to their gang, such as Bloods, Crips or MS-13.

“We’re loosing so many people to gun violence, and we need that to stop. I’ve had countless classmates pass away that should be graduating with me next Saturday and they don’t get that chance. And moms keep outliving their sons and daughters and that’s just not fair,” said Burns.

While he said police know those involved, he stopped short of saying a suspect has been identified. He said police have spoken with several people of interest but have been thwarted by people who refuse to share information.

A fate that became too real for students at Washington High School after two 18-year-olds died on Saturday after attending a party. One of them, Royal, was a fellow classmate.

Visitation for Johnson will be 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Brosh Chapel, 2121 Bowling St. SW in Cedar Rapids. The funeral will be 1 p.m. Saturday at Gospel Tabernacle Church, followed by burial in Oak Hill Cemetery.

HAPPENING NOW: Students at Washington High School are walking out of classes today. This comes after two 18-year-olds were shot and killed over the weekend. Students who knew the two killed are set to speak. More tonight at 5 & 6 pm. pic.twitter.com/4A9WGpeft5

Some have been “so bold to tell the officer that they’ll take care of the matter themselves,” he said about an exchange and officer had with a person in the emergency room.

“These were some great people that we lost, this was not some act of gang violence or something… It was just a very unfortunate situation where just, wrong place wrong time,” said Smith who serves as his class president.

Monday’s walkout, he said, was not only a way to remember their lost classmates, but it was also a call to action — a message to the community to step up and take action.

Signs reading ‘Remember Royal’ and voices yelling “we need action” took over the front lawn of Washington High School around 10:15 a.m. on Monday.

For students, a call to action At Washington High, senior Lily Burns stood with her classmates around the flagpole at the front of the school after walking out at 10 a.m. Monday.

Gay said he wants Abram and Johnson’s name to be the last on the list of deaths by gun violence.

  With little action to combat gun violence having been taken thus far, Gay said he believes he and his peers will have to create the change their community is hoping for.

“Royal was supposed to graduate from high school this weekend and knowing that he won’t have that opportunity to walk across the stage, he won’t have the opportunity to go to Kirkwood to continue his education like he planned. That’s sad… that’s really sad,” said Gay.

“It’s very sad,” said Burns, 17, who grew up with Abram and remembered him as a friend she could always rely on. His death, she said, was heartbreaking.

“We’re tired of this, I’d like to not see another one of my friends killed,” said Smith.

Burns said Abrams was troubled by the gun violence and wanted to be a positive change in his community, a legacy she now feels inspired to continue.

“What is consistent is their blatant disregard for the safety of others in the city, and their obvious lack of respect for human life,” he said.

“He wanted to be better and he wanted to do better because he’s lost friends too, to the senseless gun violence. Looking back at that conversation this past weekend made me want to do something about it, have a voice about it and make my voice his voice,” said Burns.

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Facility, staff, and police were also present during today’s walkout. The Cedar Rapids Community School District’s issued a statement saying:

“The loss of lives over the weekend due to gun violence directly impacts our students, our faculty, and our entire school district. We have aimed to provide students and staff safe opportunity to grieve and be supported in that grief, as well as to peaceably assemble.

As a school district, we honor our students first amendment rights to peaceably assemble and also express their grief as they did this morning, at Washington High School, during the student-led and student-organized walkout. The student leaders of this particular demonstration took an important and valuable step to communicate their plan with staff and administrators to ensure the instructional day went as smoothly as possible and we were able to maintain a safe environment for all. This shows a level of maturity of which we should all be proud.

As staff, it was our responsibility to ensure the school day went smoothly and without incident for both the students who chose to participate in the walkout and those who chose not to. Providing instruction to those students who remained in class and ensuring a safe environment for all students and staff was our responsibility. We are proud of the way students and staff composed themselves during the walkout and our hearts remain heavy for the families impacted by this weekends tragic events.”

Washington High School has extra counselors on campus for students and staff in need, through a partnership with Grant Wood AEA and the Critical Incident Stress Management.


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