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New information released about the victim of Christmas Eve's Citadel Mall shooting

Posted at 7:50 PM, Dec 28, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS — The victim of Sunday night's shooting at The Citadel Mall has been identified. According to the Colorado Springs Police Department, 18-year-old Teryus Thomas of Colorado Springs was found dead inside the mall with a gunshot wound.

Police said the Coroner’s Office will determine the cause and manner of death, but Mr. Thomas’s death is being investigated as a homicide.

Thomas was one of three people shot when a fight broke out between two groups of people.

Now, the national advocacy group, Men of Influence chapter in Colorado Springs is calling for peace and safety following the shooting.

The founder of the Colorado Springs chapter for the Men of Influence, Shaun Walls, said the group's mission is to bring local gangs together to open the lines of communication between all factions to help prevent violence in our community.

Their goal is to create open communication, prevent minor issues from escalating into street violence, and safeguard children and community from gun violence.

“We have events to bring the community together in safe spaces so folks from different neighborhoods can know it is a safe place to bring their family and kids to organize the neighborhood under one body,” Walls said. “We do it a bunch of different ways, one thing we realize is that you can't attack this probe with one answer, there are a lot of things that affect this bottom line.”

Many members in the men of influence group were raised in Colorado Springs. They said that going to The Citadel Mall was a staple for them growing up.

“I'm born and raised in the Southside of Colorado Springs in a place called K-land,” Dee Smith said.

Smith said he used to hang out at The Citadel Mall, and he has a lot of good and bad memories there.

“The mall has been a part of my life, my whole life,” Smith said. “It's one of those landmarks out here for our community,” Smith said.

He is a founding member of the Men of Influence. Smith said that crime among kids, teenagers, and young adults is a big problem in the city and the Christmas Eve shooting at the mall that left Thomas dead, is one example.

“These flashes of violence that occur are really a reminder that we have a problem in our neighborhood that we have ignored and not addressed properly,” Walls said.

In March of 2022, two people were shot and killed in the parking lot of the Dillard's at The Citadel Mall. The victims were just 20 and 21-years-old. Then in May of the 2022, two young people were shot at the mall, leaving a 13-year-old paralyzed.

The group is trying to reduce violent crime by redirecting young people into more safe spaces.

"When something happens in a public place like the mall, you automatically blame the mall, you automatically blame that the police were not there, that security was not there. But when you really look at it, it is not the mall that is doing that to us, we are doing this to us,” Smith said.

Men of Influence started a mentorship program in some middle and high schools in Harrison School District 2.

“You don't have to instantly go to violence. From incidents to violence is where we want to put some space in between,” Walls said.

Smith talked about some of the issues of addressing this problem. He said any solution that is in place right now, from people who do not even live in this community is not working.

“We hear the only answer is police, police, police, but we are like, 'well listen, we have programs and mentorship that are other answers besides using the hammer,'” Walls said.

He said there are currently many other community organizations that are trying to help solve this issue as well, but Walls said they need more support from the city, as well as more financial backing.

“There's a whole bunch of different grassroot organizations that are creating the answer for these problems, and they need to be funded. Because the answer is already there,” Walls said. “There's already community organizations all over the place that are not being supported, so I feel like what needs to happen is an investment in the community, these types of things."

Smith said the community, city, and neighborhood need to be held accountable for protecting, teaching and helping the youth. He said people need to be more present for the kids.

“To show them there is another way of doing things. We’re just gonna redirect our kids in our community and we’re going to make it okay to do the right thing instead of just allowing our community to just run wild,” Smith said.

I asked Smith and Walls who is responsible for keeping people safe at the mall. Is it security, the mall, police, or someone else?

Walls said it is everyone's job to do what they can, saying it starts with one person. Smith said that people need to stop pointing fingers and take action.

“It's really just pointing the finger at us and taking responsibility and accountability for our community because it's not other people who are doing this," said Walls. "We're not responsible if we look at whether everybody looks at themselves to see what they can do and situations, then we're all going to be better. And so we need to stop pointing the finger and be a part of the solution and that's what the Men of Influence is really about."

He also agreed with Smith saying that it is the community's responsibility to take action to stop the violence.

“Community is about coming together. It is not this group coming over and fighting with this group,” Smith said.

“The community is the answer. There's not something to wait for that is going to magically fix this thing, we need to get out together and have a conversation,” Walls said.

This Saturday, the group is holding a "Stop the Violence Rally" at 1 p.m. at The Citadel Mall food court.
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