Pine Bluff leaders urge Watson Chapel students to pledge to no violence

A Little Rock man shared his story of getting into gangs when he was 12 years old. At age 14, he said he shot his first person. The following year, he was shot.

PINE BLUFF, Ark — Faith leaders in Pine Bluff brought together city officials and other leaders to host a rally on the Watson Chapel High School football field for the jr. high and high schoolers. They wanted to encourage the youth to make a pledge against violence and to communicate better as adults.

The panel of adults representing different areas in the city spoke to the kids.

Pastor Jesse Turner moderated the event and started off by formally apologizing on behalf of the adults to the students in failing to properly foster their growth. 

He also said it’s up to them to do their part as well to make a change.

“You can be the leaders to show others how they can break that cycle. You can do it. I believe you can do it. I’m here because I believe you can do it,” said Turner.

Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods shared gun violence statistics with the children and reminded them of the realities of the juvenile court system in the county. He wants to make sure that they won’t ever be a part of the statistic.

“I don’t think anybody thought prior to March 1, that this school would be synonymous for a school shooting or an act of violence. It should never happen,” said Woods. “We all chose to be here, because we have an investment. We have an investment to make sure that you all are successful.”

Pine Bluff Police Deputy Chief Shirley Warrior urged students to put the guns down because of the emotional effects deaths caused by them take its toll. 

“I want everybody to put their hands up to their face. Now pull down the masks, and let’s be real. The real thing it was a terrible thing when one of your fellow students got killed here, but in truth it happens every day,” said Warrior.

Mayor Washington couldn’t be in attendance, but her assistant spoke on her behalf, citing two of her favorite poems to encourage the students. 

Kevin Hunt Sr. of Little Rock shared his life story of growing up in gangs and being in the legal system. 

“When I was 12 years of age I got involved with gangs. One of things to be initiated in the gangs was we started snatching purses downtown in Little Rock. I was a little skinny dude. Me and friends. So we just started snatching purses. That was one initiation,” said Hunt. 

He said in other initiations, he learned how to steal cars and shoot up people’s homes. He dropped out of school in 7th grade. His mother struggled with drugs.

“I shot my first person when I was 14 years old in the projects in Little Rock and after I shot that person, by the time I turned 15 years old, the same older guy that I shot? His cousin shot me,” said Hunt. 

He said by age 16 he was recruiting other kids. He would use drugs, girls, and money to impress other teens to join them. He would get caught and sent to prison. 

He was later released at the age of 20, but says it didn’t rehabilitate him. 

He committed the same crimes that landed him in there, by recruiting some of the younger siblings of his old homeboys.

“It was easy. They didn’t have their dad at home. They weren’t listening to their mama. They were poor. They were failing out of school. They gave up because they couldn’t read, write, or spell. The easy victims we were looking for,” said Hunt.

He would go on to write his own book, and he’s now a motivational speaker. 

He serves on the Arkansas Coalition Juvenile Justice Board and says instead of preying on them, he’s praying for them. 

In January of 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson pardoned all of his crimes. 

“You can be something special. Don’t be like me. Cause the road I went through was a tough road. The old Kevin L. Hunt Sr. was not your friend, but the Kevin Hunt Sr. today is,” Hunt added.