Community meeting

Recent murder of 7-year-old child leads to emergency community meeting in Pontiac

An urgent message of change from the mayor of Pontiac during an emergency town hall on Wednesday evening. Dozens of community members came to the Robert Bowens Center to discuss a rise in violence.

“It has to stop, it has to stop now, and it has to stop here,” Mayor Tim Greimel said.

The renewed concern comes after 7-year-old Ariah Jackson was shot and killed on her way home from school last week. Ariah was known as a child who loved to learn.

“His life was taken from him without a chance, his memory will live forever, we will never forget,” Pastor Douglas James said, “Every March of Reading Month we will remember this child.”

As the community mourns, they also want action. Activists and leaders of organizations spoke of the importance of building a community center for children, as well as having de-escalation and anti-violence classes.

They also say it’s time to hold each other accountable.

“I believe everyone should look in the mirror first when we think about how we can solve the violent crimes that are happening in our community,” said Dr Samino Scott. “And when we do, we have to think about what each of us can do.”

According to the city, there were 14 homicides in 2021.

Related: 7-year-old girl from Pontiac dies after being shot in the head on Friday; deputies say it’s gang related

Greimel says their plan to reduce crime is different from what Pontiac has seen in the past.

“There are new leaders in the city,” he said. “As a result, there is new hope. But more importantly, we have a collaborative approach not just with the Mayor and City Council, but with the community organizations that are so essential to ensuring this positive change happens. Actually.”

But for some, that change didn’t come soon enough. One family says the rise in violence has made them rethink life in Pontiac.

“I raised my kids here and now I have my grandkids,” Lottie Parker said. “And with the death of little Ariah, that was the last for me. I’m getting two of my kids out of here, we’re moving on to UP.”

Community leaders also praised the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office saying they appreciate their response when crimes occur. Leaders say it’s time for the community to be proactive.

Ariah Jackson, 7, was recently the victim of a shooting.

A previous version of this story misrepresented the number of homicides that occurred in 2021. The article has been updated to reflect the correction.