MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- "Enough is enough." That's the message from faith leaders after 13-month-old Bill Thao lost his life after shots were fired into a home near 73rd and Mill last Saturday night, December 27th. Thao has become the third child to die as a result of gun violence in the past seven months. Faith leaders gathered Tuesday night, December 30th to pray for Bill Thao and his family, and to remember all 86 people lost to gun violence in Milwaukee this year.
"Our community's on life support. We in critical condition. We hanging on a string," Pastors United President Elder Gregory Lewis said.
Leaders with Milwaukee's faith community are working to change the community from the ground up.
"It really affects our credibility because while we`re protesting police violence against black males and those kind of things people are saying 'but what about what you`re doing to yourselves? What about the incidents that are occurring that you are perpetrating?'" Lewis said.
In front of Tabernacle Community Baptist Church Tuesday night, faith leaders and elected officials announced a plan to combat the violence -- churches will "adopt a block."
"If Milwaukee is going to change, the pastors are going to have to do it," Mose Fuller, pastor at St. Timothy Community Baptist Church said.
"Each church will be responsible for a block. You will get to know your block -- everybody on your block -- all the landlords and homeowners. We want the bad landlords and the criminal activity out of the community," Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper said.
"Having vigils like we`re having (Tuesday night) are one thing. It`s praying. It`s doing those things that we`re supposed to be doing -- but then we need to get off our butts and go out there and do something about (the violence)," Richard Schwoegler, a spokesman for Laylah Petersen's family said.
Five-year-old Laylah Petersen died in November, when she was shot while sitting on her grandfather's lap in a home near 58th and Fairmount. No one has been arrested in that case.
She and others were remembered during Tuesday night's vigil. Eighty-six candles represented each person gone too soon as a result of gun violence.
"I'm holding the candle of Michael Burr. He's my friend Shannon's cousin that was killed. Every night is a constant. There is someone killed -- children getting killed. It's not okay," Vickie Sostre said as she prayed for peace Tuesday night.
Lewis and others are encouraging folks to share information with police, so that those responsible for these crimes can be brought to justice.
"If you`re a good citizen, telling the police or anyone else what happened here, that`s not snitching. That`s being a good citizen -- and we need to get that message out. We've had murders of children in our community and nobody is being held responsible," Lewis said.
There's hope that taking action will result in fewer candles on the table next year.
"I don't want to be one of these parents sitting here that lost a child. Something has to happen, and it needs to start with us," Sostre said.
A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in the Laylah Petersen case. Anyone with information in the shootings involving Petersen or Bill Thao are asked to call police at (414) 935-7360.
Milwaukee police say compared to last year, homicides are down. By this date in 2013, 104 people had been killed.
- Police looking at “every possibility” in investigating Bill Thao’s death, including possibility it was gang-related
- “It is very heartbreaking:” Cemetery offers to cover costs of plot, burial services for Bill Thao
- As police search for his killer(s), Bill Thao’s family says “thank you for the support”
- “Nobody deserves this:” 13-month-old boy loses his life after “dozens” of shots fired into home