Mourners gather at vigil for Xe’Quan Campbell, Keon Cooper

By Keaton Yates, Staff Reporter

Tonight citizens of Carbondale gathered to mourn the victims of the two shootings that took place in Carbondale this weekend and to raise awareness of the spike in gun violence seen in the city.

Early Friday morning, Xe’Quan Campbell, a 16-year-old Carbondale Community High School student, was shot at 1225 W. Freeman Street. 

See more: (16-year-old killed in shooting early Friday)

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On Saturday, another young man, Keon Cooper, age 27, was fatally shot at the 500 block of South Illinois Avenue. 

See more: (Police search for three suspects after murder Saturday night)

At least four people have been shot in Carbondale in the past month including Cooper, Campbell, a five-year-old girl and a victim whose name the police have not yet released.

See more: (police search for armed suspect)

See more: (5-year-old girl shot in Carbondale)

Citizens at the vigil lit candles in memory and held signs protesting against gun violence. One of the signs said “stop the shooting epidemic” and another said “our children are dying, do something.”

Campbell spoke about his previous encounters with gun violence in an interview with the Southern Illinoisan.

In April, Campbell was able to disarm another student on the school bus. According to the Southern, Campbell and his brother had been threatened at gunpoint before. The two boys had witnessed the death of their cousin, in 2013, in a drive-by shooting.

Campbell was a brother, and a father to be, Ginger Rye, founder of Women for Change and citizen of Carbondale, said. Although immediate family could not attend the vigil, two of his cousins, his aunt and uncle were present, along with some of his friends from school.

Rye spoke for solace of the family and friends of the victims and to raise awareness about the gun epidemic.

“We’re here today to grieve with the family but also to honor him that we can go out and tell someone that we know is doing illegal things with guns, ‘put your guns down,’” Rye said. “It’s time for us to come together as one community, one voice, so we can make a difference.”

Deb Woods, a member of Women for Change, said a gun cannot solve problems and can only create more problems.

“The sad part is I don’t think people understand that you are not alone when you choose to fire a gun,” Woods said. “You decide to end someone’s life and, guess what, you’re ending yours as you know it.”

Ryan Thomas, principal of Carbondale Community High School, said the message he is giving his students is that the school is supporting them as much as they possibly can to live their lives and do the good things Xe’Quan would want them to do.

“I think the students that are going through at the high school and in the community will become stronger because of this on the other side,” Thomas said. “They’re going to live their lives with Xe’Quan in their hearts and in their minds and they’re going to move forward in a positive way.”

Rye said the community needs to be watchful.

If anything is going on wrong in our neighborhood, we want to see it and say something,” Rye said. “That’s what we want to do, we want to be vigilant.”

Rye said Carbondale must stand together to speak out about what is happening in the city.

“We can’t just talk about it, we have to be about it,” Rye said. “We got to do what’s required for this city to be what it should be.” 

Carbondale has always been a city with neighbors that supported one another, she said. 

“We have to get back to that, we must get back to that,” Rye said. “How do we do that? We do it by being proactive.” 

Rye said people can’t just talk about gun violence and must take action.

“If we don’t put enough resources into these children to change their mindsets, we will lose them,” Rye said.

Staff reporter Keaton Yates can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @keatsians.

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