Roanoke mom speaks to Gun Violence Prevention Commission about shooting that injured her son

Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 10:14 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A pivotal two-hour meeting Tuesday night marked what very well might be a shift in what the Gun Violence Prevention Commission prioritizes. The first half of the meeting was focused on results from the recent Youth and Gang Violence Community Assessment. A similar presentation was given to city council members Monday. Tears were shed though during the second half of the meeting.

“There are some deficits in services available, especially for families who have experienced gun violence,” said Chairman Joe Cobb.

That message rang loud and clear when guest speaker Javonda Merkman took the floor.

Eight months ago her 19-year-old son Ty’jhay Harris was shot with an assault rifle three times.

A bullet went through his brain, and he’s still getting treatment.

As a result, Merkman and her other children are now homeless.

“There are four children that look me in the face everyday with an expectation that Mom, you’re gonna get up. Not to mention my son who is lying in the hospital, he has an expectation, Mom you’re gonna fight, and that was my response to him when we entered his room and they told me, he has 24 hours to live,” said Merkman.

Both Harris and Merkman have persevered, but now Merkman wants to see change.

That’s also what a group of William Fleming High School students wants with a new campaign called “This is My Why Not,” encouraging kids to stay away from violence.

“We believe this campaign is something we need not only in the school but in the community,” said Aleeshea Washington.

After hearing these powerful voices, the meeting was adjourned. Members didn’t receive any of the agenda promised reports.

“For it to be effective, we need to be effective, we have to create the change, and we may have to create something new to address it, but there’s an urgency, we need to do it now,” said Cobb.

An emotional, poignant reminder for the commission with a real voice instead of just data, on how everyone is affected differently.

“That’s our job, to fix that, for her and every family that comes after her,” said commission member Stacey Sheppard.

Cobb urges anyone who may have a personal story to share with the commission to contact him directly at

The next meeting is scheduled for March 8, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.

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