DENVER (CBS4) – After a violent week among teens in Aurora, leaders from the across the Denver metro area are stepping outside of their cities to be part of the solution. A Denver man, who is a role model today, admits he used to be part of the problem.
“I got involved in gangs in high school, dropped out of high school my senior year and ended up going to prison by the age of 25,” said Jonathan McMillan, the City of Denver’s Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator.
Now a mentor to many, McMillan says violence doesn’t recognize nor respect city boundaries. Those are just imaginary lines. He joined dozens of community members in Aurora Monday for a public discussion on safety with local teens.
“I know for me, it took being a part of different nonprofit organizations and mentors who exposed me to opportunities for employment and opportunities for elevating my voice,” said McMillan. “The first time I spoke on a public stage was because I was part of this nonprofit Open Door. It helped me build and create another identity for myself that was just as believable as what I was being fed by the media and in the culture itself.”
McMillan says teens can be drawn to gangs because they’re looking to be part of the something bigger than themselves. Aurora police believe the shooting at Nome Park was gang related.
“Very few active gang members are violent gang members. For every 100 there’s maybe two or three who are holding the gun and shoot,” said McMillan.
Those statistics were met in a single moment last week at Nome Park.
In Colorado, a child as young as 12 can be charged as an adult. It’s still unclear if the teens involved could go to prison for attempted murder.
“I think that they need to have the best legal representation possible for them and given opportunities to be held accountable for their actions and make a change if that’s really what they want to do,” said McMillan. “I don’t ever think it’s too late for anyone.”