Local group hopes to save Memphians

When Damien Farmer was killed at the Pleasant View Apartments on January 25, he became the city's 18th homicide victim of 2016.

Less than one month later, there have been 16 more homicides in Memphis, as of the morning of February 22.

Memphis is on pace to record 239 homicides for 2016.  According to the Memphis Police Department, roughly seventy-five percent of homicides are young black men, like Farmer.

Farmer was in trouble as a 13-year-old and spent one year in juvenile detention following the death of a classmate at Westside Middle School.

At age nineteen, having already dropped out of high school, Farmer went to prison for five years. He was released in May and was killed eight months later.

“Sometimes you get caught up in the wrong place and the wrong time,” Farmer’s sister Kiara told FOX13. "Whatever he did in the streets, he never brought it home."

Kiara knows her brother wasn’t perfect, but she said he didn’t deserve to die.

J.R. Futrell is trying to stop other young men suffering that same tragic fate. He grew up, joined a gang and eventually served more than ten years in prison.

Now, Futrell runs a Memphis-based company that contracts Shelby County Schools to keep kids out of gangs, prisons and early graves.

Young Man University’s primary focus is gang intervention. Futrell said to change the reality of young black men dying in the streets, you have to change the youth mentality about the streets.

He told FOX13 that kind of “cultural re-adjustment” must come from role models and mentors in the communities where the killings are happening, not from men in suits who don’t live in the neighborhoods.

"You can't expect these kitty cat leaders to deal with these lions in these streets,” Futrell told FOX13.

He said that has to come from men like him who are unafraid to demand boys and young men, who have been seduced by the streets, change their thinking.

"If I see kids that I know standing on the corner selling dope, I'm going to get out my car and say something,” Futrell said.

He told FOX13 that is part of the solution.

"I teach from my failures because therein lies the truth, where the solutions are. This is how I mess up. I can best show you the traps, so this is what we teach around here,” Futrell said.

It's a the kind of lesson Kiara Farmer wishes her brother had learned when he was in middle school, before dropping out of high school.

"You ain't got no education, you ain't got nothing, because you can't go get no job. You ain't got no high school diploma, no G.E.D.  It's hard out here and it's getting even harder."