'COVID-19 didn't stop violence': Teen homicide arrests highlight importance of outreach during quarantine

SEATTLE -- Following the back to back arrests of a 13-year-old year old and 16-year-old for recent homicides, community leaders are sharing why resources for young people in our community are more important now than ever.

Marcel McCants, the executive director of Youth Violence Prevention Network, runs one of the many local nonprofits working to still provide resources to at-risk young people.

"I've seen shootings in Burien, I've seen shootings downtown, shootings in South Seattle, and so, COVID-19 didn't stop violence," he says.

McCants says their organization continues to provide outreach through social media and online platforms, where he shares his personal story.

Three years ago, McCants was paralyzed after he was shot in the neck by someone he called his best friend.

"I'm not a gang member, or a thug. He's not a gang member or a thug," he says. He believes his friend's actions were caused by undiagnosed mental illness.

In the last three years, the physical and mental progress McCants has made is astonishing.

"It's definitely a miracle that I can move, talk, I'm in a manual wheelchair as well, I was supposed to never be able to do that."

Today he uses his message of love and forgiveness to promote healing and prevent violence, a message he believes is more important now than ever.

"There's no school, there's no football, there's no acting or dancing classes...kids may resort to violence, kids may have more anxiety, cabin fever, more depression," he says.

That's a sentiment Sean Goode, executive director of Choose 180, agrees with, especially following the recent violence.

"When teenagers are out committing egregious crimes in the community, yeah I would say certainly. Think about what it's like for a young person to not have school as a safe place? You remove that safety and what do we have? We have young people in the community, absent of regular supervision and support."

Goode says it seems the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order is having a negative impact on an already vulnerable population, and that the pandemic has exposed a sad reality.

"It has demonstrated that we live in a community that has a distinct gap between the haves and haves not, and when those who don't have are put in the position where they have even less, desperation sinks in and all kinds of toxic behavior can begin to manifest itself, rooted in frustration and anger," Goode says.

"I'm not saying anything to excuse behavior, but what I do know is adolescent behavior when it goes awry and it turns into something like these deadly incidents we're seeing, its speaking clear and its speaking loudly."

Goode says organizations like his need to be able to do more now than ever before, which can be challenging as os many nonprofits have been hit hard financially. Community support is crucial. He and McCants say it's also crucial that we are all regularly reaching out to the young people in our lives to provide support during this isolating time.

McCants also says he hopes people will recognize that gun violence is an epidemic that deserves our attention and resources.

"It's also a virus, it's also an epidemic, it's killing thousands of people every single day... I wish we would have that same energy towards gun violence. I wish we would put that same money into community centers, into schools."