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Community gathers one year after mass shooting at Louisville's Chickasaw Park

People gather in a row behind a lectern at an outdoor park, where two adults speak at the microphone.
Breya Jones
Both David Huff Sr. (left) and Rose Smith (right) lost children to gun violence. As they heal, they have become advocates for their children.

A year ago, two people were killed and four were injured during a shooting at Chickasaw Park. Police haven’t made arrests or released information about suspects in the case.

Community members gathered Monday to honor the lives of people impacted by last year's mass shooting at Chickasaw Park. Police and government leaders also repeated their requests for witnesses to come forward.

“We need people to provide information to help us resolve crimes like this and hold those accountable, who were using guns to cause harm and take people's lives,” said Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg.

Greenberg urged anyone with information to come forward, reminding people that they could do so anonymously.

He and the Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel said fear of retribution shouldn’t stop people from sharing pertinent information.

“We cannot allow violent criminals to hold our residents hostage in this city by fear or in their very own neighborhood,” said Gwinn-Villaroel. “We should not be hostages, we should live in our city with peace and with freedom. We have the mechanisms in place to help people who want to speak out, but are afraid.”

“We must do better. Here we are a year later, and we still have nothing to bring to these families of the homicides to help them find the peace that they need to bring closure to their families because their loved ones are no longer here,” she said.

One of those family members still waiting for closure is David Huff Sr. His 17-year-old son, David Huff Jr. was one of the people killed.

Monday was the first time since his son’s death that he went back to Chickasaw Park.

“I didn't think I would gain the strength to make it here today,” Huff Sr. said. “Right now as I stand I'm okay because the energy and the support and love has been good.”

Huff Sr. said the lack of closure has been frustrating.

“I don't have a clue of why it happened and what happened but I know this much, whoever was involved in that they're gonna have to deal with that. Even if they never turn themselves in and get caught, or admit what they did,” Huff Sr. said.

He said he has asked people who were there that day what happened, but understands people’s hesitancy to say anything. He said there was a brief moment where he could only think about revenge.

“I don't care how successful you are. I don't care how spiritual you are. I don't care how positive you are. If somebody takes the closest thing from you, and it wasn’t in result of being ill or something like that. You may go insane for a second,” Huff Sr. said.

He said through community support and counseling, he’s been able to process and start to heal.

When a loved one is killed, their family often becomes that victim’s advocate.

“I often say that my son was fatally injured, but I was critically wounded,” said Rose Smith.

Smith founded the ACE Project, which works to support and uplift young people from marginalized backgrounds. Her son was shot and killed nearly 10 years ago. Since then she has become an outspoken advocate against gun violence.

“In the wake of this senseless act of violence, it can be all too easy to succumb to despair and hopelessness, " Smith said. “But as we stand here today, surrounded by strength and resilience of our community, we are reminded that even in the darkest of times, there is light to be found.”

Smith said it’s key for people to come together, build communities and call for gun control reforms.

She wants to use her pain as motivation to create a place where people can live in peace instead of having to say “rest in peace.”

Smith said those who have been killed are sentenced to death, but their loved ones are experiencing a punishment as well.

“All who lost loved ones. We're doing life. Life without our loved ones,” Smith said.

She said it’s important to keep memories alive.

Huff Sr. said his son was mature beyond his years, a football player, a good dresser and a better driver than him despite Huff Jr. not having his license. He had plans to go into the military after graduating high school.

A few months after Huff Jr.’s death, his father accepted his diploma on his behalf.

“That was the last thing he did before he left, he got his diploma,” Huff Sr. said. “He did graduate, he got that goal in his life.”

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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