Survivors of mass shootings fight for change after weekend shootings

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Several local families know what it’s like to lose a loved one in a mass shooting.  

Thirty-nine-year-old Melanie Crow Smith was killed in the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ shooting in Antioch in 2017.  

On April 22, 2018, 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva, 22-year-old DeEbony Groves, 21-year-old Joe Perez and 29-year-old Taurean Sanderlin were all shot and killed at an Antioch Waffle House. Four others were injured, and 30-year-old Travis Reinking has been charged with the crimes. 

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Abede DaSilva not only lost his brother but he barely survived the shooting himself. This weekend, he watched as news about the two mass shootings poured in. 

“It just brings back all the memories and the feelings from the day of,” DaSilva told News 2. “It just brought back the same feelings because I know what they’re going through. I know what they witnessed. I know it’s hard.” 

After Akilah’s death, Abede and his family created the Akilah DaSilva Foundation, which fights for stricter gun laws.  

“The same thing has continued so many times after the Waffle House shooting, so it feels like what has been accomplished since then? Has anything changed?” he said.  

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“We’ve been fighting and trying to make changes, and then when something like this happens you feel so set back,” said Akilah and Abede’s mom, Shaundelle Brooks.  

Brooks was planning to go Walmart Saturday but couldn’t bring herself to go after the shooting in El Paso. She and her children stay close to home for fear something bad will happen again.  

“Not only do you feel unsafe, but you feel scared and you feel helpless because who do you turn to?” said Brooks. “Who do you turn to because you can’t turn to Congress because they’re not doing anything.” 

waffle house shooting victims

“It just makes you not want to do anything. I was supposed to go to the movies yesterday and it just made me not want to go, because you just don’t know about something unexpected,” said Akilah’s sister, Amber. 

Through the foundation, Akilah’s family will continue to fight so others won’t feel their pain and to encourage those who already do. 

“It’s ok, they’re going to be watching over you,” said Akilah’s 13-year-old brother Aldane to the families affected by this weekend’s mass shootings. “They’re always in your hearts and their name will always live on. They’ll always love you even though they’re not there.” 

“Don’t let your family die in vain,” said Abede. “I say use this situation to make a platform to fight to end gun violence and to change the laws and to change all these tragedies that are happening.” 

“Prayers and thoughts do not work,” said Brooks. “We just want you to know that we understand, and we are supporting you, we are standing strong with you.” 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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