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New space in Citadel Mall for group working to reduce gun violence

A 14-year-old turned to 'Men of Influence' after friend was shot and killed
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jun 07, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — 'Men of Influence' opened a center at the Citadel Mall Friday. A group working to reduce gun violence in our community.

News5 hosted a town hall meeting with Men of Influence (MOI) in February.

After about three years, MOI now has a space of its own; donated by the mall and with help from city leaders. A grand opening is planned for this fall.

Men of Influence's DeAndre Smith calls for more commitment to intervention resources from city officials in town hall

MOI hopes by just having a presence here at the Citadel Mall, more people who may be involved in gun violence can get help.

At 14 years old, Cj McIntyre experienced gun violence firsthand a few months ago. "A fight had broke out and rest in peace to my homeboy, he was shot and killed."

Without MOI, Cj believes he would be in jail for retaliation.

"Revenge was one of the things I wanted to do, but expressing how I feel about it to the MOI program helped me a lot," said McIntyre.

One of the founders, DeAndre Smith, said opening this space aims to help more teens like Cj.

"Once we find out there are shootings going on, what we do is try to figure out a way that we can make sure that the violence stops there," said Smith. "We got a 98% [success] rate once we sit down and talk to these young people."

There have been 13 mall-related shootings since 2016, according to our news partners at the Gazette.

"The reason why the men of influence came together was because of the gang violence," said Smith.

City Councilwoman Nancy Henjum got involved in hopes of making the mall feel safe again.

"It's a good place to be and it's gotten a really bad rap and it's time to kind of turn the fly reel the direction," said Henjum.

"I hope for the other kids to come here, express their feelings, and take what they have to offer, their advice," said McIntyre.

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