The Mobile Police Department presented a new countywide initiative Tuesday directed toward preventing youth-related crimes and educating young people on the consequences of bad decisions.
The department released a 17-minute video called “You Still Have a Choice,” where a reenactment is shown of the local case in which 17-year-old Trayon Washington fatally shot Mobile resident Wendy Fisher.
Police Chief James Barber said the “senseless murder” was recreated “to illustrate the out of control violence, its impact on the victim, the perpetrators and our community, as well as the efforts of the Mobile Police Department to provide a combination of swift, fair law enforcement in help for young people who may be breaking our laws or under pressure to break them.”
Once apprehended, Washington was tried as an adult, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“Washington decided to kill two people in the split second he took to pull that trigger—an unarmed woman and himself,” Barber said in the video.
Pat Brown, who was driving the car when Fisher yelled at the men to slow down before Washington shot her in the chest, was also found guilty of murder even though he was not physically responsible.
Using Brown as an example, Barber said many young people involved in criminal behavior do not understand that they may face the same consequences of an action made by someone else just for being present during the crime.
“This is a thought provoking process,” Barber said.
After the reenactment, the video transitioned to interviews conducted by former Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, with inmates who were tried and sentenced as adults.
“Don’t listen to the people that say they’re your friends … don’t listen to that. Whatever you do, you take responsibility for yourself,” said 32-year-old Demetrius Dowdell, who is currently serving a life sentence in Holman Prison. “Take on the responsibility for you because once you come here, your choices they are limited. Your options are gone.”
However, Barber said one interview has stuck with him throughout his career and pushed him to create the program to reduce recidivism for juvenile criminal offenders.
Michael Duren, 31, who was charged with attempted murder and armed robbery, is also serving a sentence of life without parole in Holman Prison but in his interview, he battles through tears and asks Tyson why there was no one there to help him.
“There’s nothing in this world worth coming here,” he said in the video. “I wish to God that I would have had you then. Man, if I would have had you then, I wouldn’t be here now. It’s too late. It’s not because I love you or I know you. I don’t know you from a man in the moon. This is my second time ever seeing you in life. But where was someone like you then, when I needed you? Be there for somebody. Just take time out, man. Go out there in the projects and look, you’ll find me everyday.”
Barber said he hopes this initiative will allow young people to see law enforcement as a refuge, a place to seek help, instead of viewing officials as just “people who are going to put you in jail.”
The program encourages youth and families to reach out to the MPD Family Intervention Team, who play a major role in the advocacy of eliminating youth-related crime by working confidentially with those seeking assistance.
Sgt. Zandra Jackson, who heads the team, said there has been a “dramatic” increase of families over the years and in 2013, the team worked between 400-500 cases.
“We have to have everyone working together,” she said.
“If we fail to provide for the safety of the public, then we have failed as a government,” Barber added.
The Family Intervention Team can be reached at 251-208-6145 and FIT@cityofmobile.org.
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