Less than two weeks out of the strict schedule of a work program, Christon Hargrove was dead.
“C.J.,” 21, was found shot twice in the head just before 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the 800 block of North Virginia Avenue in Atlantic City’s Back Maryland neighborhood.
The young father of two is the city’s 11th homicide victim. No suspects have been named.
He had been doing well at the Boys and Girls Club’s Workforce Investment Act program, which helps 18- to 21-year-olds get job training, said Ashley Hughes, director of program development.
“It’s another sad tragedy in our community,” City Councilman Mo Delgado said. “We have to find a way, a solution somewhere.”
City Councilman Marty Small, who was at the scene shortly after Hargrove was killed, said the city is trying to come up with ways to help stem the violence.
One of those attempts are five Community Day barbecues started by the school district’s Stop the Silence program. The sponsors say it’s a fun way to bring the community together while opening up communication between residents and police. The first barbecue is set for 1 p.m. today at the Uptown Complex School.
For her part, Hughes said she believes Hargrove’s death is proof of the work program’s importance.
“The irony of it all is, we have lost this program (due to funding issues), and we’re attempting to do all that we can to get it back for the most obvious reason of all,” she said. “We went on break for two weeks out of the seven months that this program operates, and a kid is killed once knocked off of his routine.”
Hargrove, who often was seen around town with his two young children, was getting job training and working toward his General Education Diploma.
“I’m going to miss coming here, Ash,” he told Hughes last Monday as he filled out his timesheet.
The program pays a $6-an-hour stipend for work done at the club, which doesn’t include the hours participants spend in training.
Hargrove had the most hours of anyone in the program, Hughes said, working especially well with the kids at the club as he oversaw the game room.
“C.J. wasn’t perfect,” Hughes said, adding that the two often butted heads as he balked at the young woman — just four years his senior — trying to teach him the right way to do things.
But he recently had a breakthrough when he went to her to apologize for his stubbornness. She named him “Most Improved” at an awards ceremony June 18.
The club also gave him a “random round of applause” award when he was able to run the entire game room on a day when they were short-staffed.
She expected him to show up Monday, when the summer session began. Instead, she got a call at 7:30 in the morning telling her he was gone.
This isn’t the first time Hargrove’s family has lost someone to gun violence.
Derrick Hargrove was 18 when his girlfriend, then 16, fatally shot him during a fight in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 2006 — C.J.’s 16th birthday. Cindy Bennett was freed in March 2011 after serving nearly three years and eight months of her five-year sentence. Both families had argued against prison time.
“I think Atlantic City has become numb to the fact that these things happen because they happen so frequently,” said Hughes, who grew up in Back Maryland.
She was a “Club Kid” herself, taking advantage of the Boys and Girls programs. After graduating from Atlantic City High School, she left the state for college but returned after graduate school. Now, she lives in the city’s Bungalow Park neighborhood and hopes to keep the programs going at the club.
“This is just one of the many programs kids don’t know are out there,” Hughes said. “C.J. was one of those kids who just decided to take advantage of it.”
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