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Parents of murdered children organize for change

Reporter: Anika Henanger
Published: Updated:

Losing a child can challenge the basic existential assumptions of a parent, as the death defies the expected order of life events. For Angela McClary, the leader of the Fort Myers-Lee County Parents of Murdered Children, she said it was heartbreaking to see so many families in southwest Florida undergo the same devastation that so drastically changed her life.

While McClary’s son was murdered over four years ago, the vigil at a local church observed the deaths from the recent Bell Tower Shops shooting. Whenever there is another shooting in Lee County, McClary will replay in her mind the day her son was shot and killed, multiple times.

“They’re trying to make sense of it,” Rickey Anderson, Sr., chair of the Fort Myers Police Clergy Community Partnership, said. “It’s hard to wrap your brains around it when it just happens over and over and over.”

McClary and Anderson helped organize a vigil the week of the Bell Tower shootings. The vigil is a moment of reflection to celebrate the lives lost while encouraging the mourners to demand that the city finds a solution.

“I have experienced that they’re working behind the scenes and there’s some information that they won’t allow the public to know,” McClary said, “so it won’t intimidate anyone or dampen the case.”

McClary views these shootings as an opportunity to change the community’s culture around disclosing helpful information following crimes, such as murders. She believes people need to come together and assist the police.

People shouldn’t be intimidated to speak up. But, it is term, “snitches,” which is her deepest source of resentment.

“The whole thing about no telling,” McClary said. “We have to really re-educate and reverse our mindset of our city with our children, starting with at home, in the churches, schools, that ‘no telling’ should not be allowed.”