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Michelle "Hope" Walker talks on Tuesday at the Decatur Public Library during an event to celebrate women and discuss criminal justice reform, stopping violence, and supporting loved ones in jail.

DECATUR — Community advocate Michelle "Hope" Walker said she hoped the wide-ranging discussion she organized Tuesday could highlight issues of violence, criminal justice reform, women's issues and others. 

The event, which lasted more than two hours with a break between topics, was held at the Decatur Public Library. Walker said she has spearheaded the event for over 10 years, and created it as a forum for residents to share their concerns. 

“It is so important we talk and brainstorm how to fix these issues because they will never go away,” Walker said.

During the event, MacArthur High School junior Zhanigh Rice performed a religious song to promote peace. 

“Adults are trying to improve the streets but sometimes they get stuck in the past and it doesn’t help the future,” Rice said. “I think what this group is doing here is a good starting point to fix things.”

Walker specifically referred to Marcel Whitfield, a 32-year-old man who was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Decatur bar last week.

Whitfield was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Feeling Lucky, 3775 N. Woodward St., around 1:39 a.m. April 7 when he was shot twice, Detective Sgt. Chris Copeland said. Police said he was initially expected to survive after suffering bullet wounds to the chest and thigh. Whitfield went into full arrest and died at 7:45 p.m. the same day after having undergone surgery and lengthy resuscitation efforts, said Macon County Coroner Michael E. Day.

No arrests had been made as of Tuesday morning, police said.

“What happened to Marcel was tragic,” Walker said. “It’s is scary that this could happen to anybody.”

Whitfield’s death was the fourth Decatur homicide of 2019.

Earlier this year, police arrested 22-year-old Billiejo L.Soyster on New Year’s Day in the fatal stabbing of her boyfriend, 38-year-old David W. Murray.

Jaquaris L. West, 18, and Matthew A. Anderson Jr., 20, have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Curtis T. Hairston, who died after being shot inside Long John Silver’s, 701 W. Eldorado St.

On Feb. 11, 2-year-old Ta’Naja Barnes died from what police described as neglect in a filthy home. Barnes’ mother, Twanka Davis, 21, and her boyfriend, 25-year-old Anthony Myers, have both been charged with murder.

“It’s not just about criminal justice reform or stopping violence,” Walker said. “We need to come together as a community to work on all of the issues that contribute to the bigger picture.”

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Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (217) 421-7985. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro

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