HOUSTON – Houston’s murder numbers are posted for 2016 and they remain at a five-year high. Records show 302 people were killed last year, leaving behind families who were ripped apart.
One of those Houston families is that of Liz Vaughn-Henderson, whose 20-year-old son, Jehlan, was gunned down in March. Jehlan was a dancer and choreographer who dreamed of going on tour with other performers. He made a demo tape as a teenager in the hopes of making it big.
Liz describes her son as a free spirit who inherited her love of music. Always in motion, Jehlan was known for breaking out in song and dance during football practice.
“He aspired to be a hip-hop choreographer," Vaughn-Henderson said. "He wanted to be out on tour dancing with artists. His taste in music was pretty sophisticated.”
Shortly after his death, several members of his dance community composed a poignant and haunting tribute.
Mayor Sylvester Turner’s press conference lauding the fact that one less person was killed in 2016 than in 2015 stung Jehlan’s mom.
The mayor addressed the murder rate, saying, “It is always hard to determine the reasons murders and other crimes increase. Some say it is something we really have no control over.”
He went on to say, “Since September, we have seen a slowing of homicides, and, as of today, the total for 2016 stands at 302. At the midpoint in June 2016, it seems as though we were going to go extremely over our numbers from last year and be about 346, and to come in at 302 speaks volumes."
Houston’s murder rate is 50 percent higher than it was in 2011.
For Jehlan’s mom, that conference rang as tone-deaf.
“I don’t believe it’s time for pats on the back with the murder rate being one less," she said. "This is just not the time for celebration. We are not there. We aren’t even close to being there.”
KPRC Channel 2 News sat down with Houston’s brand-new police chief, Art Acevedo, who pledged to fight violent crime while acknowledging limitations.
“Crime doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock," he said. "Crime doesn’t stop on weekends. Criminals don’t recognize holidays and neither will we. I don’t think we’re making news here when we are saying that we are a lean organization. You have a mayor that has already publicly said he wants to hire at least 600 more officers in the future.”
Officials said 79 percent of all murders committed in Houston in 2016 were a result of gun violence. Jehlan’s mom moved to Houston in 1997 and has seen the city change
“I feel like Houston is different today," she said. "The millennials just don’t seem to have as much regard for life. Their moral code is totally different. I don’t feel as safe walking around the city, because I know those people are also walking around the city.”
In a few weeks, Alicia Keys will be performing at the Houston Rodeo. Jehlan's mom said without a doubt, Jehlan would have been there.
Channel 2 has compiled an interactive map of all Houston murders in 2016. Click here to see where Houston’s murders are happening and how.
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