‘Breathe for me’: Copiah County leaders reenact crime scene inside high school in hopes of preventing youth violence
HAZLEHURST, Miss. (WLBT) - Shock. Heartbreak. Rage.
No one would want to relive a crime scene.
Unless of course, it could prevent someone else from experiencing the same horror.
This is what city and county leaders in Copiah County had hoped when they reenacted a homicide investigation last week before hundreds of students inside the Hazlehurst City School District high school gymnasium.
Local authorities, including the mayor, police chief, sheriff, assistant district attorney, coroner and local funeral director came together to show students what happens when a crime occurs.
The presentation is called Stop the Violence.
Students, who had no idea what would unfold in their gymnasium, watched in silence as the demonstration played out.
First - screams for help. Then, shots rang out followed by emergency sirens and first responders racing to the scene.
You could hear a pin drop.
“Come on, man, come on; breathe for me,” Hazlehurst Chief of Police Derrick Cubit said while performing CPR on the victim.
As they would in real life, half a dozen officers roped off the crime scene with yellow tape and began their investigation.
While the reenactment unfolded in the background, other officials spoke directly to students, explaining what they were seeing and how easily a disagreement can turn violent.
Some leaders offered conflict resolution tips and other individuals gave words of encouragement but Copiah County Assistant District Attorney, Larry Baker presented a raw, real warning.
“If you pick up a gun and you go out and murder someone, we will get you and we will put you away,” he said.
NAACP Project Coordinator Lisa Williams-Augustine, created the presentation and coordinated the mass effort.
It was first performed in 2022 by leaders in Pike County.
“We were so grateful for everyone who was willing to come together because they showed that they love the children and they showed what was important to them.” Williams-Augustine said. “A lot of children have situations going on in the home or they’re bullied and are affected by it. When they feel like they’re in a world by themselves and they think there’s no one to turn to, they often resort to violence.”
Here’s what was most interesting about the event.
Copiah County leaders requested to be taught the skit by Lisa Williams-Augustine, with the McComb NAACP Branch in Pike County.
“There was so much violence happening in the McComb area that community leaders decided that something needed to be done,” said Symico Fuller-Williams, Community Relations-Partnership Coordinator
for Hazlehurst City School District in Copiah County. “We want our students to understand first hand what is happening and what a viable solution looks like.”
Williams-Augustine aims to one day travel the state teaching the presentation to other first responders.
Her goal is to garner enough support from state leaders to duplicate her Stop the Violence program in each Mississippi city.
“This is all about our youth. We hope that students will remember what they have seen and learn how to control their anger and reason with one another without picking up a gun.”
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