Clergy, Rockford leaders call for peace after 15-year-old shot and killed in Rockford

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Two days after a 15-year-old was killed at the intersection of Kent and Ferguson in Rockford, clergy members from all over the area came together to say they’re fed up with the violence.

“We’re going to change the way this looks,” Rebecca White Newgren the pastor at SecondFirst Church says. “We’re going to change the narrative here and make sure the narrative of Rockford is one of peace and love and hope and joy.”

Za’Shawn Coats is the victim police say was shot and killed Monday when a group of people approached his friends and shot them from a car. The family describes the teen as a boy who loved to make people laugh. They also say he always tried to make his family proud.

“He’s like a family clown. He would make jokes. He was a child full of life,” Marc Wills, Za’Shawn cousin says. “He loved his family, he loved his sisters. He’s one of a kind.”

Now, clergy leaders are pleading with the community to end violence. But, they say it’s not up to police, school district or city leaders to step in and fix the problem. Instead, it’s up to the community to stand up and say enough is enough.

“Just to see that a 15-year-old boy was killed, so tragic,” White Newgren says. “It’s the first murder of the year and for us just to say you know no more. This is enough. One is too many.

A message coat’s family says needs to turn into action soon before another family in the forest city feels the same heartbreak.

“We need to do something about this, Rockford,” Wills says. “We need to do something, bad.”

The family is having a balloon release for Za’Shawn Thursday at the corner of Kent and Ferguson, where their loved one lost his life.

Andi TenBarge

Andi TenBarge

Reporter

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