ATLANTIC CITY — City residents know the problems. But Tuesday night, they were pushing for solutions.

Discussions at a town hall meeting at the All Wars Memorial building turned to gang violence, allegations of police brutality and parental responsibility.

“The violence is what I’m concerned with,” Kashawn McKinley said. “The bodies are dropping. How are we going to stop it?”

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The meeting, sponsored by the National Action Network, was meant to bring everyone together for solutions, President Steve Young said.

Mayor Don Guardian, Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert and police Officer Bob Berg were among those on a panel to hear what residents had to say.

“I want to come back to a meeting and see Stanley Holmes on this side and Back Maryland on this side,” said Mucifer Obama, talking about two of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

Many said the time for talk is over. Action is needed in the place where the violence is happening, they said.

Victims are mostly targeted, McKinley said, talking about what many refer to as gangs, “but I call them brotherhoods, fraternities.”

He said he wants to sit down with the leaders of those groups and help work out the problems rather than have more discussions, which he likened to “putting a Band-Aid on cancer.”

Three people were killed in the city last month. The same amount as all of last year.

One victim was Angel Mercado-Santiago, 13, who was shot just after his school day ended at Pennsylvania Avenue School. His alleged killer is just 14, a freshman in high school. A 15-year-old was wounded in the shooting.

Former school board member Stephanie Davies-Khan said her immediate thought when hearing of the shooting wasn’t the victim or the shooter.

“All I could think was, ‘It’s 2:45,’” she said of school having just let out. “Don’t lose sight of the kids who were where they were supposed to be, doing what they were supposed to do.”

Angel’s aunt, Jackie Acevedo, said she went with others to her nephew’s grave before Tuesday’s meeting, but she couldn’t bring herself to get out of the car.

“There’s still so much violence since,” she said. “Where are the parents? Where are the police? And where are they getting these guns from?”

Maria Diaz, who has created her own community watch, said it was fine that McKinley wants to help with the gang members “because I want to get the children before they get involved in the gangs.”

Families who have lost loved ones to violence spoke, bringing up such cases as the March 26, 2011, abduction of Nadirah Ruffin from Back Maryland. Her body was later found in the Schuylkill River.

Allegations of police brutality were also raised.

Several speakers thanked the Castellani family for drawing national attention to the topic.

The Castellanis filed a lawsuit alleging their 20-year-old son, Connor, was beaten by police during an arrest last summer. A video allegedly shows the beating. Bites from a police dog resulted in several stitches to Connor Castellani’s head.

Contact Lynda Cohen:


@LyndaCohen on Twitter

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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