A Brooklyn man devoted to ending gun violence in his community was fatally shot during a trip to Florida over the weekend.
Lavon Walker, 30, of Crown Heights, was killed outside a cafe on Miami Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive in the South Beach section at about 7 a.m. Sunday.
Walker, known to loved ones as “Boo," was a self-described drug dealer and thief during adolescence but broke from that life and spent recent years working with Save Our Streets, an organization he helped found, to end violence and crime in his neighborhood.
The Facebook group Save Our Streets Brooklyn posted a tribute to Walker on Monday, lauding his efforts as a peacemaker.
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“He was our heart. He was always smiling, cracking jokes and keeping us honest. He saw the vision for a violence-free Brooklyn,” the post read.
The director of the organization, Amy Ellenbogen, said she was in disbelief over Walker’s death.
Walker was married and had two young sons.
“It’s just something that’s really incomprehensible,” Ellenbogen said. “We all, in our work, are facing a lot of violence and death regularly.
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“And that doesn’t prepare you at all for the shock of someone so close to you and someone so dedicated to eradicating violence.”
Ellenbogen said Walker was inspirational to young people, using his past as an asset to connect with people.
“His speeches resonated with young people instantaneously,” she said. “He would say, ‘I used to be you. I understand you because I was you.’ Young people looked up to him.”
Walker was one of the first members of the anti-violence organization when it began in 2010.
Kenneth Edwards, 43, who worked with Walker at Save Our Streets, called him a “loving and caring brother, husband, father to two young boys and friend.”
“Lavon gave to many unselfishly and asked for nothing in return,” he said. “Lavon devoted his life to the Lord and that led him to saving lives in the community of Crown Heights. … Lavon took a stance against what was happening among men and women in the same neighborhood he grew up in. He turned his life around and was making a difference.”
The Miami Beach Police were still hunting for the killer on Monday.
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A video from that year shows Walker standing outside with a bullhorn counting off the number of people shot in Crown Heights between January and Nov. 11. He punctuated each of the more than 60 incidents by ringing a bell for the victim.
“We are united together - black, white, Hispanic - we’re all standing with one purpose, with one goal: To let the community know that shooting and killings are not acceptable,” he says in the video.
Indeed, his legacy may be enduring.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Lavon as individual and Lavon as a member of the team has contributed to a decrease in shooting violence and a change in how people think about gun violence in our neighborhood," Ellenbogen said.
"The loss of Lavon is an incredibly deep loss for his family, for everyone that knows him but also for those who didn't know him," she said. "His impact goes farther than what people may know.”
Shootings were on the rise in that neighborhood for the two years before Save Our Streets began its activism, increasing from 40 victims to 61 that year, according to NYPD statistics. Since then, there’s been a 52.5% decrease, with 29 shooting victims in the area this year through Oct. 2.
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