The number of homicides in the eight Fort Worth City Council districts since the start of 2022 are fairly consistent. Most districts saw three homicides. District 2 tallied four. Council member Chris Nettles, whose District 8 includes parts of southeast Fort Worth, has had nine

One of those was a drive-by shooting that killed 15-year-old Higinio Edwin Flores Jr., in the Poly neighborhood. Flores was a member of the soccer team at Polytechnic High School. 

A rash of recent gun violence spurred Nettles to address teenage gun violence in Fort Worth high schools and middle schools — before it’s too late. 

Nettles held the first presentation, titled Fort Worth Violence Intervention, on May 10 at Polytechnic Heights School, 1300 Conner Ave. The Poly neighborhood, which falls partially in Nettles’ District 8, has experienced escalating gun violence. 

The presentation encouraged students to seek out resources and report potential gun violence to the police if they know about it ahead of time. 

“A lot of people need to hear it… I think a lot of people at my school don’t really care,” senior Angelica Vaughn said after the presentation. “I think the older we are, we do (care) because we see it more often… There’s those of us that genuinely do care.” 

The presentation also featured Mothers of Murdered Angels founder Melinda Hamilton, Ronnie Mitchell with Unity over Violence and members of the Fort Worth Police Department including neighborhood police officer Bayona Maria Lupita and Commander Amy Ladd. Tobi Jackson, Fort Worth ISD school board president, also attended.

“You have the opportunity to choose what you want to do with your life,” Mitchell told the students. “The hardest thing to do right now in DFW is make it to 25.”

The speakers offered their personal cell phone numbers to the students. Mitchell went further offering a summer job to any student who wants it. 

A rash of recent gun violence was a turning point for Nettles, who is resolved to give this presentation in any school that will allow him to call an assembly. Swift community outreach, he hopes, will help curtail violence before summer begins. 

Summer, a season of no school and warm weather, is often when gun violence spikes in Fort Worth and around the county. It is imperative to reach these kids before school lets out, Nettles said.

“I feel like if we can get into the school districts … and speak to them directly, giving examples of mothers who lost their kids … It would change their mindset,” Nettles said. 

Preventing gun violence is the No. 1 priority for the Fort Worth Police Department, Chief Neil Noakes told members of Fort Worth City Council during a February work session. Gun violence consistently rose in Fort Worth and around the country between 2019 to 2021. 

Prevention and enforcement is key to deterring gun violence, especially among teens and young adults, Noakes told council members. Nettles criticized Noakes’ presentation for not specifically outlining how the police department plans to address gun violence in communities like District 8. 

“We can’t be broad when it comes to resolutions, when we have specific issues,” Nettles said at the February work session. “So I think we need to take the nail, put it into the coffin and drill until it’s over. This issue is bigger than just today.”

Tuesday’s presentation was in part a response to constituents who have asked, “What is the city going to do about gun violence?”

Nettles spoke about his own young children, including his 14-year-old son. Everyday when his son walks out the door, Nettles is afraid he could become a victim of gun violence, he said. 

“I will be messed up if I lose my kids to senseless gun violence,” Nettles said. “You never know what’s going to happen until it happens, but you have the opportunity today, tomorrow and the next week to speak up and be the changemaker.” 

These presentations are a starting point, he added. Nettles hopes that by making himself available to feedback from students, City Council members and community leaders will build trust with the Fort Worth’s young people. 

“Repeating the message over and over and then having somebody try it, that’s the only way it really works,” Nettles said.

Nettles is planning to take the presentation to Dunbar, Everman and Eastern Hills high schools before school releases for the summer. 

“You can be the cure to gun violence,” Nettles told students. “You don’t have to be the smartest or the president of the class, but you can save someone’s life.”

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel Behrndt

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org