Javon M. Johnson of Winona died Wednesday, June 18, 2014, after being shot in the head two days prior during an incident that occurred on Campbell Street just west of the Cade Street intersection.
According to Winona Police Captain Tommy Bibbs, reports of a fight on Campbell Street sent officers to the scene, and when they arrived, they found Johnson lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. Johnson clung to life for nearly two days at University Medical Center in Jackson before succumbing to his injuries.
A 2013 graduate of Winona High School, Johnson is remembered fondly by his friends. Nearly 100 people turned out for a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, June 18, shortly after Johnson’s death, and on Saturday evening for a prayer and candlelight vigil.
Winona’s Tarryon Daniels was friends with Johnson. The two found common ground in their love for music.
“I grew up with him,” Daniels said. “He was a laid back and smart guy. He really kept to himself, but he was easy to get along with.”
Daniels said the pain of losing a friend in such a tragic way was something he should not have to deal with in his early 20s.
“Even after the funeral, this is just unreal,” Daniels said. “It’s just hard to explain other than he’s gone, and it hurts.”
Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers said his family was heartbroken over Johnson’s death. “My son, Butler, was a good friend of Javon. The two of them graduated together, and it upset him and our entire family immensely because of this senseless loss of life. We need to do everything we can as a community to make sure this type of tragedy never happens again.”
In an official capacity, Flowers, the Winona Police Department, and the Winona Board of Aldermen are seeking ways to put an end to petty violence like street fights and other public disturbances for fear that one may escalate and lead to another tragedy. Last week, residents living near the scene of the shooting appeared before the board, concerned about the frequency of street fights and other disturbances occurring in their neighborhood. They said gunfire has been heard on several occasions.
Bibbs, who addressed the residents at the June 17 board meeting, said the Winona Police Department has increased patrol, but officers are not able to be everywhere in town at one time. He said officers rely on members of the community to report those outside the law, but he said in so many instances, no one is willing to step forward.
“A police department is only as good as the community makes it,” Bibbs said.
Monday, some residents, still in shock over Johnson’s death, talked amongst themselves on porches and in a popular, shaded area along Campbell Street. Some think guidance is the answer and not violence. One man said the area has recently become plagued with gunshots and fighting.
“After the shooting it’s been pretty quiet,” Tony Daniels said. “But I’m willing to bet it’s going to get rowdy again. There needs to be patrolling over here at all times.”
Winona Chief of Police Johnny Hargrove has stated that his department has a “no tolerance” policy for public fighting, and those who engage in such behavior will be arrested. Further, Bibbs said anyone participating in such public fights will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and if convicted they face a hefty fine and jail time.
In addition, the Winona Board of Aldermen instructed city attorney Ray Baum to draft a curfew ordinance for those 17 and under in an effort to rein in juvenile mischief. The ordinance will be re-addressed July 2 at the regularly-scheduled board meeting.
Winona Baptist Church’s Pastor Mark Williamson said he was shocked to hear about the shooting.
“It just floored me,” Williamson said. “Our church faces Campbell Street and Highway 51. That happened just down the street from our church. That’s why we took prayer to the community.”
Williamson and other members of Winona Baptist Church held a prayer vigil Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at the site of the shooting.
“We turn to prayer,” Williamson said. “The community needs a lot of prayer to keep us focused. We can’t always stop conflicts, but we can do something about how we handle conflicts.”
Williamson said since the incident, his congregation has been dedicating time to pray for the young men in the community, which they did Sunday during church services and on Wednesday evening.
“We are praying for God to intervene to prevent anything else from happening,” Williamson said.
Williamson said in reaching out to young men in the community in a positive manner, Winona Baptist is focusing on getting them involved through sports with softball and other outdoor activities.
“We have to think outside the box,” Williamson said. “If that is with fishing or hunting or other activities outdoors, that is what we will do. We will go to them.”
Flowers echoed Williamson’s sentiments about the need for positive influence for the young men of Winona, and he said he hopes the community will work together to prevent more tragedy.
“It is inexcusable for a young man to lose his life in a situation like this,” Flowers said. “I plan to work with Brother Mark [Williamson] and anyone else willing in order to connect with these young people and offer a little direction to achieve all they can in the future. Everyone in the community needs to show how much we care.”