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Organizers put south St. Pete businesses on notice at rally to end gun violence

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – City leaders continued to take a stand against gun violence Saturday just days after police shot and killed an armed suspect who seriously injured an officer.

“No mother or father should ever have to bury their child,” City Councilmember Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said.

Her son was shot and killed 12 years ago and more recently her family lost a young mother in November.

“My cousin Arnieceia Milton was just killed on 16th Street where they allow those same gatherings,” Wheeler-Bowman said.

An organizer of the Enough is Enough movement to end gun violence, Wheeler-Bowman said she is putting businesses in south St. Petersburg on notice to stop the late-night gatherings that can lead to violence, like the shooting that killed her cousin.

“You’re going to have to respect our wishes cause we are tired of losing our children and if you don’t do that we’re gonna start boycotting you,” she said.

Wheeler-Bowman said she’s had enough of corner store business owners refusing to sign blanket trespass warrants that would let police break up late-night gatherings.  

“Why gather until 3 in the morning like it’s a club in your parking lot cause you’re making money,” she said.

The Saturday afternoon sign waving at the corner of 34th Street S. and 18th Avenue was planned before Wednesday’s police shootout that killed a 20-year-old man officers tried to arrest for body-slamming a 15-year-old boy.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Dominique Harris shot an officer with a semi-automatic handgun at close range, had a lengthy criminal history, and was a person of interest from an unsolved 2019 homicide.

“This has nothing to do with the shooting that killed Harris,” Wheeler Bowman said. “This is not an anti-police campaign at all.”

Wheeler-Bowman told 8 On Your Side at-risk youth need mentors who can be a positive influence and tell them to put down the guns.

“I don’t care if it is a person that was in prison before that has turned their life around that can share things that they went through so these kids won’t repeat the same things,” she explained.

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