HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — Shawn Hicks, the owner of The Crafters House at the Riverchase Galleria, said she was working at the mall July 3 when a shooting broke out that killed 8-year-old Royta Giles, Jr. and injured three others.
Hicks said she believes her store could be part of the solution to bring down gun violence at the mall. She said the day of the shooting was stressful.
“We were setting up in front, we heard what I thought was a firecracker, a single firecracker, and then I saw the smoke and then not 5 to 6 seconds later we heard gunshots and it sounded like it was right there in our ear and we had customers in the store and I just urged everyone to run to the bathroom where we locked ourselves in,” Hicks said.
Hicks said this got her thinking on how to prevent instances like this from happening again. She said she would like to see more activities that are affordable or free to kids at the mall.
“I grew up poor and during those days, the only thing you can do is you can go to the skating rink or the mall, and most of time you went to mall because you didn’t need to have any money. You just say OK I’ll eat before I go to mall and hang out at mall, and being a business in the mall, I see that. It’s not that these are bad children. These are just young adults that don’t have anything to do, but if afforded the opportunity to them, they would do things,” she said.
Hicks said she has worked with the Birmingham Housing Authority before and is hoping to work with them and the mall on bringing affordable options for kids and young adults when they visit the mall. Hicks said she would love people to come in her crafts store and stimulate their mind.
“If you embrace them and have activities for them to self express themselves. you not only change any negative thoughts they had thinking and woke up to that morning and move away from their current situation, whatever reason. Even if it’s not their current situation because it’s not just under privileged poor people that do crime or do negative behavior. It’s just large groups of people who don’t have anything to do,” she said.
Hicks said anything she can do to bring people hope, she will do. She hopes this is the start of a bigger dialogue on how to change the image of the mall and make people feel safe and included.
“What’s happening in our personal lives can’t be changed overnight but can we do something? Yes. Does it take a village to raise a child? Absolutely. Now the mall just needs to find itself in that village and figure out how to raise and help kids that come here seeking for help,” she said.
Hicks said she is also in support of more security measures but feels but engaging with the kids and young adults at the mall would make a lasting impression.
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