Kearns students standing up to gang violence with green ribbons

KEARNS, Utah - In the last few weeks, gang violence in West Valley City and Kearns injured a handful of people and killed an innocent couple.

Some teens in the community came together Saturday evening in hopes they can make a change.

It starts with the green ribbons they tied to street signs up and down 5600 S. and Cougar Lane in Kearns.

Asa Jett, 19, came up with the idea and said he hopes the green, which is a Kearns High School color, will draw attention to the statement they are trying to make.

"We care. We`re putting our foot down," Jett said. "This is Kearns. This is our home.'

Jett called two of his friends, Elly Navarro, 17, and Ethan Andrus, 19, for help on the project.

"I said well, you know, let`s do it!" Navarro said.

"Something`s gotta work. Something`s got to be done to crack down on all this and just kind of put your foot down. You can`t blame anyone. You gotta work together," Andrus said.

When they spoke with FOX 13, they all agreed every person in their community is able to make a difference.  Navarro said she thinks an important part of that is being aware of others and staying connected.

"I think that like we`re not reaching out to them enough to where, you know, they feel like `Hey, someone cares. Someone`s here for me.` And, you know, we need to start doing that," she said.

Unified Police Department Lt. Brian Lohrke told FOX 13 in the last "three or four consecutive weeks" gang violence has been prevalent in the community.  Drive-by shootings injured a 17-year-old in Kearns and resulted in the death of two people after a gang member fleeing a drive-by in Kearns crashed into their vehicle.

Most recently, three males - two adults and one 17-year-old - pulled up to a Quincenera in West Valley City and shot into a crowd of people after a dispute on social media.  One man at the party was shot in the leg.  The three suspects were pulled over in a traffic stop Saturday morning and subsequently booked into jail, facing attempted homicide charges.

Some of the gang members involved in these incidents are in the same age range as Jett, Andrus and Navarro.

"People choose different paths as they grow up, and when they are influenced by the wrong crowd, they get involved with the wrong things," Andrus said. "There are two separate ways when you`re our age, and sometimes you choose the wrong path."

The spike in violence does not deter these three from trying to make a difference, however.  All three said they still want to be police officers someday.

"It makes me want to be an officer more so I can be out here helping," Andrus said.

All said people do not need to be in law enforcement to make a difference in their community.  Jett said it is fairly simple.

"We need to say 'Hi.' We need to wave to people and, you know, be loving, caring," Jett explained. "Someone`s got to start somewhere, and I didn't expect to be the one person to start it and I`m glad I did."

Jett said a handful of people have reached out on social media trying to figure out how they can help.  He suggested fundraising somehow, maybe by selling the green ribbons, so they can help the families of the victims.