COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Former convicts now turned community leaders are speaking out against the gun violence in Columbus.
The group is known as Halt Violence, a non-profit that’s about bringing an end to violence in the streets and putting former convicts on the right path toward success.
“I’ve been shot on two different occasions, once in my arm, and one in the back of my head,” said Brandon Ray, a former gang member.
In 2018, Ray nearly lost his life to gun violence here in Columbus. At the time, Ray said his life was going in the wrong direction. After barely surviving a gunshot wound to the skull, he knew that he had to make a change.
“The whole time I was in the hospital, I was thinking life don’t stop, so I’m missing out on my education, assignments, and falling behind, so that gave me the willpower to get up and get back to it,” he said.
However, he didn’t do it alone.
“We’re here as a resource, and me and others are living testimony that it can be done,” said Thell Robinson III, the founder of Halt Violence.
Robinson knows all too well how difficult going straight can be. He’s a former drug dealer who served time in Franklin County for his crimes. Once he got out, he decided to better his life and the lives of others by forming the group, which works to save lives and prevent gun violence through street mediation and mentorship.
“Instead of shooting each other, let’s talk about a non-violent alternative, and just meeting them where they at,” Robinson said.
He said that’s how they’ve helped hundreds of young people in Columbus like Ray. Meanwhile, Ray said if not for Robinson, he may have never gotten his life on track.
“He taught me how to get my record expunged, he went through all the steps with me, going downtown, filling out the paperwork, I didn’t use no lawyer, it was just me and Thell,” Ray said.
Now, Ray hopes to spread that message to others.
“He got me sort of on, you know, the same path as him, cause I’m like I know if I can change, you can too, somebody else can too,” he said.
View more information on Halt Violence here.