After gunshots pierced through their streets July 3, the Lake Como community filled Como First Missionary Baptist Church with a message: This incident doesn’t define our community.
The pews were full of people listening as a spectrum of community leaders charted a path forward following gun violence that brought a national spotlight to Fort Worth. The faith-focused speeches were punctuated by cries from the crowd as the community continued to mourn the three people killed and eight injured in their neighborhood.
The incident occurred just before midnight at the intersection of Diaz Avenue and Horne Street, hours after the neighborhood wrapped up its annual ComoFest. The shooting was not connected to the annual festival, organizers emphasized.
City and county officials promised help and economic investment for Lake Como in the aftermath of the shooting. Meanwhile, pastors and community members reminded civic leaders of the decades of neglect and mistreatment that made the majority Black neighborhood a target of violence in the first place.
“I’m tired of talking, Jared,” the Rev. Kenneth Jones, who hosted the event, said to Como’s council member Jared Williams. “We need money and access to capital. We need resources.”
Ella Burton, president of the Lake Como Neighborhood Advisory Council, offered city leaders a framework for supporting their community: Better collaboration with the police, more funding to prevent gun violence and economic revitalization in their neighborhood.
Lastly, to applause from the crowd, she called for gun reform at the state and federal level.
Her calls were echoed by other speakers throughout the two-hour meeting. However, the prevailing message was clear: The community has no intention of waiting for Washington, D.C., Austin or the city to take action; improvements will come from within the community.
Como, one of the longest-standing African American communities in the state of Texas and Tarrant County, is defined by faith, family and fellowship, Burton said. The community is close- knit and, when violence occurs, it’s typically at the hands of people outside the community, she added.
Jones pointed to Como’s long history of working collaboratively with the city and county. In 2020, the community’s advocacy resulted in a $3.2 million investment in infrastructure from the city. In 2022, under the leadership of Jones, Como successfully lobbied to be moved into District 6, where residents had a better chance of being represented by a Black council member.
July 6, the Neighborhood Advisory Council will meet with the city to address the resources needed for their neighborhood to avoid a similar incident.
Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks, who represents Como, started his address to the full church with a single sentiment: “I am angry.”
The community and government have to work together, Brooks said. The issue of pervasive gun violence won’t be solved through a budget, he said. Instead, it requires a collaboration between community and government.
“This is not a situation that you’re going to arrest yourself out of, and it’s not a situation that you’re going to buy your way out of,” Brooks said.
Brooks, along with several other city leaders, including council member Williams and Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes, pointed to the newly funded One Second Collaborative, a group working under United Way of Tarrant County that aims to put an end to youth gun violence.
“That is one solution, that is one collaboration,” Brooks said. “If we can create enough of these efforts, we can make a difference.”
The city has to continue listening to the community, Williams said, to ensure any next steps are in line with Como’s goals. For now, the city should deliver high-quality city services to Como, invest in economic development in the neighborhood and encourage commercial development.
“Our residents live in fear of whether or not something like this will happen to their loved ones or to them,” Williams said. “I think it’s important that we as a city work to improve safety, not only around major events, like Fourth of July, but for our residents and visitors every day.”
That means reaching out to state and federal lawmakers and encouraging them to address rising gun violence through legislation restricting the proliferation of guns, he said.
Noakes agreed with Brooks that arrests alone will not prevent gun violence in vulnerable communities.
“Prevention is preferable everytime. … That does come back to investment, investment in every community, including Lake Como,” Noakes said.
Several speakers pointed to a lack of trust between the Black community and the police department as a barrier to preventing crimes like this in the future.
Regina Williams, who helps to lead the One Second Collaborative, said the nonprofit plans to work closely with the community to understand what programs and resources they need to recover in the direct aftermath of the shooting and the years to come.
“Our goal has always been to listen to the community and expand our table,” she said.
The collaborative brought together nonprofits, city leaders, county leaders and representatives from ZIP codes that have been especially affected by gun violence to serve on a steering committee. A community representative from the Como community has not been present at those meetings so far, but as the collaboration continues will be invited to participate in working groups, Regina Williams said.
Brooks, who worked with Jared Williams to establish the One Second Collaborative, said he plans to ensure his office is meeting with the program’s leadership to include representatives from Como in future plans.
Pastor Kyev Tatum, of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church in east Fort Worth, talked about interconnectedness, saying that, until all the neighborhoods in Fort Worth achieve their full potential, none of them can. He called for creation of a task force that addresses gun violence as a public health issue.
When asked how this task force would fit in with the One Second Collaborative, which is already underway, he said he’s open to working together, but the city has to prioritize the voices of the community’s representatives.
“I can tell you since the day I was born, who the city selects is not who we select from our community,” Tatum said.
Today, with three lives lost, Pastor Rodney McIntosh, of Christ the Risen King Church and founder of the nonprofit VIP FW, said he’s reflecting on the lives of young people taken by gun violence in Fort Worth that don’t draw the attention of national news.
“I’m tired of this moment,” McIntosh said, “but I’m tired of countless moments when we wake up and a mother has lost her son, a mother has lost her daughter.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.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.