Forum on gangs, guns set

Published 9:57 pm Monday, March 6, 2017

A community forum next week will bring attention to gangs and gun violence in the name of a local man who has been missing for 15 months.

Quantez Demont Russell, a Suffolk native, disappeared on Nov. 11, 2015 following rumors he had been shot in Newport News. No trace of the crime was ever found.

“They’ve done all they can do right now,” Russell’s mother, Joan Turner, said of the police investigation. “They just need somebody to say something.”

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Russell, who was 30 when he disappeared, was involved in gangs, and Turner wants to use her son’s life as a cautionary tale to other young people.

Quantez Russell

Therefore, she and her family have organized “The Quantez Demont Russell Awareness Forum: A community discussion on youth, gangs and gun violence.” The event, themed “He Didn’t Just Go Missing,” will take place March 18.

“I’m hoping this event will help other young people, both youth and young adults, if they’re on that path that he was taking, to stop and go down the right path,” Turner said.

Panelists will include Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Phil Ferguson; Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Shaia; Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney; Delegate Michael Mullin; Officer Herman Kee; the Rev. Sylvia Copeland-Murphy; Sheriff E.C. Harris; and Alvin Banks, a friend of Russell.

The panelists will speak about what they are doing to help eliminate violence and gangs in their circle of influence.

“We’re hoping people will ask questions of the panelists,” Turner said.

The event will begin with a presentation about Russell’s life that Turner said will be “very powerful.”

She has contacted local youth groups and churches asking them to send their youth to the event. The family is hoping for about 200 attendees.

Young people will have the opportunity to win raffles for gift cards that have been donated, she added.

Many of Russell’s family members will be in attendance at the event, Turner said. He has a 9-year-old son and four siblings, all of whom will attend, as well as his father, stepfather, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Turner said she hopes the event will help others turn away from a life of crime.

“I just want one person to be saved from the predicament he’s in and our family is going through. I don’t wish this on anybody.”

She also said she hopes the event will once again keep Russell’s name in the news and encourage someone to come forward with information on his disappearance.

“We’re just hoping this will keep his name out there,” she said.

The forum will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. March 18 at the East Suffolk Community Center, 138 S. Sixth St.