It's no holiday. February 16 is now known as Jordan Davis Dayi n Jacksonville, Florida. That's because Davis, who would have turned 18 on that date, was shot and killed last Thanksgiving after a confrontation over loud music at a gas station. His accused killer, 46-year-old Michael Dunn, reportedly shot 8 or 9 rounds at a carful of African-American teens after asking them to turn down their music, and apparently mistaking them for dangerous gangbangers. But the teens were students at a local magnet high school, and local police say, unarmed.
The case is complicated by Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which authorizes residents to defend themselves with a deadly weapon if they feel threatened. Dunn's attorney may seek a Stand Your Ground defense in Davis' murder.
The Jordan Davis tragedy saddened but did not surprise me. Because we have a lot of gun violence in what's known as "The 904" (that's Jacksonville's area code.)
In fact, way back in 2008, Jacksonville finally decided to get serious about changing its status as Florida's murder capital with an anti-crime initiative called "The Jacksonville Journey." City leaders were tired of the high homicide rate, the family breakdown in poor neighborhoods, the revolving door of ex-offenders leaving prison only to commit more crimes upon release.
It made for a compelling story. And it turned into an Emmy Award-winning documentary that I produced, called The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State. The film follows regular people in our city who've been impacted by violent crime and takes a look at potential solutions. In particular, we told the story of former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier, whose NFL career was cut short after he was shot fourteen times and ended up in a wheelchair.
We made the film to bring to life the impact of gun violence and all the social ills that contribute to it. Now, some five years later, the "Journey" funding for Jacksonville has been cut, but the issues are as relevant as ever. Jacksonville is still the Sunshine State's murder capital. And the problems in Jacksonville, and in every major urban area around the country, remain just as pressing.
It's a paradox that can be difficult for many to understand. Nationally, crime rates are down, but high-crime pockets are still present in so many American cities. And even if you live in a leafy white suburb like Newtown, gun violence can still find you.
I don't profess to know the answers to solving America's gun violence problem. But I do know the power of bearing witness. That's why we made The 904, so I hope you'll be part of its theatrical debut -- and the Skype town hall that follows -- on the East Coast this week. Learn more here.