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'Stop the violence' rally held in response to surge in Tampa shootings

TAMPA — A small crowd gathered Tuesday outside Tampa police headquarters to deliver a simple message: "Stop the violence."

It was a day after police called attention to an alarming surge in gun violence; twice as many people have been shot to death in Tampa in 2015 than in the first three months of last year. The violence has included 15 homicides, compared with just seven in the same period last year.

Some of those whose lives the shootings have touched were at Tuesday's rally.

They each stepped toward a collection of television microphones, some wearing T-shirts bearing photos of those killed, and pleaded with those who have knowledge of the recent shootings to tell police what they know.

"This is sad that the violence just keeps escalating," said Ali Muhammad, a member of the Tampa New Black Panther Party, which helped assemble the rally. "We want the people to hear from the people it is affecting."

Among the group was DeVita Hutchins, whose Sulphur Springs home on Saturday was the scene of a shooting that left 14-year-old Richard Newton dead.

The shooting happened during a birthday party for Hutchins' 14-year-old daughter, which was also meant to be a celebration of the life of Ikeim Boswell, 16, who was killed in an accidental shooting a week earlier. Two others were also shot and wounded when a fight broke out at the party. No one has been arrested. Witnesses have been reluctant to help investigators.

"How can a person sleep, knowing that they did something like that?" Hutchins said. "That little baby died from someone else's stupidity."

As the group spoke, police Chief Jane Castor appeared. She voiced her support for the group's message, calling on those who know something to come forward.

"We're all feeling the same level of frustration," she said.

Anyone with any information about the shootings can call Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

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