LORAIN, Ohio — After two single mothers were killed in a Lorain home invasion in mid-February, the Lorain County Interfaith Association is sharing its efforts to combat gun violence and violence against women.
Faith-based leaders and elected officials denounced these acts of violence in a Tuesday press conference.
Abril Mills and Jerhonda Edwards, both in their late twenties, were ambushed and shot to death in a home invasion on February 13, according to Lorain police.
“How in the world can you go to another human being's home without impunity and knock on the door, go in a door and shoot them,” Paul Hasan said.
Their murders account for two of the four homicides in the City of Lorain so far in 2021.
“We’ve got to get to them guns and get them off the streets because if we don't the stuff is going to continue happening,” Ricky Smith said.
Pastor Charles Howard said he’s exhausted from senseless killings in his community.
“I have done a total of 13 funerals this year and eight of them, seven or eight of them have been murders,” Howard said.
Both faith-based leaders and city officials said while the number of homicides in the city has not skyrocketed in comparison to recent years, gun violence and the number of people illegally operating firearms have.
“The number of homicides actually haven't gone up dramatically,” Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley said. “They go up and down, but it's usually in that area of six to 10 or 12 which is way too many.”
Virginia Beckman of Genesis House, the only women’s shelter in Lorain County, said the deaths of Mills and Edwards are part of a larger issue.
“There's been what people are calling a shadow pandemic,” Beckman said. “Meaning a pandemic that's happening alongside the larger pandemic of coronavirus is the shadow pandemic of violence against women. Lorain County has a problem specifically with violence against women. Gender-based violence.”
While the deaths of Mills and Edwards are not being investigated as instances of domestic violence, Beckman said there is still a correlation between the home invasion and domestic violence crimes in Northeast Ohio.
“This is really just symptomatic of a greater issue that we have to tackle,” Beckman said. “When there's a cultural acceptance of gender-based violence and violence against women, that increases the likelihood. It makes permissible all kinds of violence against women.”
Bradley said in an attempt to curb violence in the city, he’s asking county prosecutors to come down harder on those charged with weapons crimes.
“Weapon under disability. That's someone who has a felony who ends up with a firearm. We are looking at improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle,” Bradley said. “We are talking about carrying a concealed weapon.”
The Interfaith Association said it will continue to partner with organizations like Genesis House to talk through ways to prevent violence, particularly against women and children.
Leaders also harped on the importance of male role models for teens in the community, citing gun violence among males as young as thirteen in Lorain.