Cub Reporter Damon Weaver Asks President for Help

"People saw who shot him but they won't tell us who did it," Wallace said. "What we need are people who will go to court, people who will hold up their hand and swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. I saw this guy shoot that guy."

"Why are they afraid?" Damon asked.

"They were afraid of him," Wallace said. "They knew who he was and they were afraid of him.

"There's a lot of different reasons why people are afraid to talk," he said. "The gang members scare people. Happens in your neighborhood. There's gangs in Pahokee. There's probably gang members that go to your school."

Wallace said 60 percent to 80 percent of all violent crime in the area is related to gangs. "We've had gang members in fifth grade selling drugs at the elementary school," he said.

Most of the shootings in Damon's town are perpetrated by teenage gangs fighting over turf, respect and drugs, authorities say, and they settle their arguments with guns.

"In Palm Beach County, I've seen 10-, 11-, 12-year-olds shoot people," Wallace said. "They're not old enough to buy a gun but some kids steal guns. Some kids have a dad, mom, brother and take their guns. Sometimes they just find guns. Just a few weeks go, we had an 11-year-old kid get shot by a 9-year-old."

In Pahokee, Damon and his friends hear gunfire all the time. "We hear it so much we get used to it," one of his friends said. "Sometimes you can name the gun, just name the gun. Like what type of gun it might sound like."

Buying Guns From 'Jitterbugs'

In an interview on the city's main street, Commissioner Henry Crawford talked to Damon about crime.

"Have you ever seen shootings?" Damon asked Crawford.

"Yes, of course I have," he said. "I was born and raised in this city. We have some of our young men who get shot and lose their lives at a very young age. Young kids who get accidentally shot."

One man on the street showed Damon where he had been shot.

"Did it hurt?" Damon asked.

"Begged for my life," the man said.

"Did you tell the police?" Damon asked.

"No," he said.

"Did you report the shooting to the police?"

"No," he said.

The people Damon interviewed said they had never reported a shooting to the police, although they admitted it was easy to procure guns in the town.

One man told him that anyone with $50 can buy a gun off the street. When asked who's selling them, he said, "Jitterbugs," which is street slang for kids.

"Guys my age, they'll tell me, 'I don't have no gun.' If I go down with some jitterbugs, kids 15 or 16 years old and say, 'Here's $60. I need a piece' and then they'll bring it back to me. It's the younger people from ages 12 to 21 years old. They're trying to hold that bad reputation: 'I've got a gun. I got power.'"

Peer Pressure

Damon worries about his 14-year-old brother, Marcus, who is under pressure to join a gang.

"It's like peer pressure because they want me to help them fight," Marcus said. "They say it's cool. They'll help you fight, got your back when you're in trouble. But I don't like being around trouble, so I just don't hang with them."

Marcus said he wants to be a football player and if that doesn't work out, a lawyer or a doctor.

As for Damon, he plans to be "a journalist, football player and pilot, person who trains whales, president and a senator." He added, "And a commissioner and a Democrat."

"We are three brothers living in this little room," Damon said. "It's not that big, but it keeps us close."

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