Struggling to make sense of her son’s shooting death a year ago, Tonya Lindsey reached out to other Lexington parents who had lost children to gun violence. From those initial conversations, the group Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence – or SWAG – was born.
Lindsey and LaTosha Reynolds appeared on this weekend’s Connections with Renee Shaw to share their personal stories and explain how SWAG is working to raise awareness about the costs of gun-related crimes.
Reynolds says she was proud of her 22-year old son, Steven, who she describes as a peaceful and fun-loving child. He was killed during random gunfire following a series of fights at Eastland Bowling Alley in April 2013. LaTosha says Steven was an innocent bystander, one of five people shot that night.
“I got to the bowling alley as they were loading him into the ambulance,” LaTosha explains. “Everybody kept saying, it’s this person, it’s this person, it’s not Steven. So in my mind I’m thinking, he’s going to be okay because the other person didn’t make it. But in reality, it was my son who didn’t make it.”
Now more than 15 months later, LaTosha says her three-year old grandson still asks where his father has gone.
The Life of the Room
The person charged in that shooting was an acquaintance of Steven Reynolds. For the Lindsey family, the suspected gunman was closer to home.
Ezavion Lindsey was a 16-year old junior at Tates Creek High School when he was shot in July 2013. Ezavion played basketball and football, had a part-time job, and was active in his church.
“Anybody that knew him, knew him for his laugh and his smile,” Tonya Lindsey says of her son. “When he was in a room, he was the life of the room.”
Ezavion grew up with a half-brother, Eric Trigg, who is charged with the shooting. Tonya says she doesn’t know how the boys got a gun, and complains that police haven’t given her many details about the incident. She says that both sides of the family have been devastated by Ezavion’s death. Trigg is scheduled to stand trial in November for second-degree manslaughter.
A Mission to Raise Awareness
Tonya Lindsey didn’t start SWAG as a support group but says that’s what it has become. She says it’s difficult to comprehend the emotional impact of gun violence unless you’ve been through it. Lindsey explains the simplest things in daily life now trigger a powerful grief response in her, and she knows if she calls another SWAG mother, they’ll understand.
The members also support one another by attending each other’s court hearings. Lindsey says she’s found it a good way to prepare herself for the trial of her stepson.
The non-profit organization also works to raise community awareness about the risks and costs of gun violence. The group held a lock-in for youth and parents at a local church to explain what it’s like for families going through a gun-related deaths. Lindsey has also enlisted the help of Louisville community activist Christopher 2X and New Orleans-born entrepreneur and rapper Master P to help promote SWAG’s work in Lexington.
The group can be contacted through Facebook and by phone at 859-382-0053.