Recent murder of 7-year-old leads to emergency community meeting in Pontiac

An urgent message of change from the Pontiac mayor at an emergency town hall on Wednesday night. Dozens of community members poured into the Robert Bowens Center to discuss a rise in violence.

"It's got to stop, it’s got to stop now, and it must stop here," said Mayor Tim Greimel.

The renewed concern comes after 7-year-old Ariah Jackson was fatally shot last week as she got home from school. Ariah was known as a kid who loved to learn.

"Her life was taken away without a chance, her memory will live forever, we will never forget," said Pastor Douglas James, "Every March in reading month we will remember this child."

As the community mourns, they also want action. Activists and organization leaders talked about the importance of building a community center for kids — along with having deescalation and anti-violence classes.

They also say it's time to hold each other accountable.

"I believe that everyone should first look in the mirror when we think about how can we resolve the violent crimes that are taking place in our community," Dr. Samino Scott. "And when we do, we have to think about what each one of us can do."

According to the city, there were 14 homicides in 2021. 

Related: 7-year-old girl from Pontiac dies after being shot in the head on Friday; deputies say it's gang-related

Greimel says their plan to reduce crime is different from what Pontiac has seen in the past.

"There’s new leadership in the city," he said. "As a result there’s new hope. But more importantly, we have a collaborative approach not with just the mayor and city council, but with community organizations that are so key to make sure this positive change actually happens."

But for some that change did not come soon enough. One family says the rise in violence made them re-think living in Pontiac.

"I raised my kids here and now I have my grandkids," said Lottie Parker. "And with little Ariah's death that was the last for me. I’m getting two of my kids out of here we’re moving to the UP."

Community leaders also commended the Oakland County Sheriff's Office saying they appreciate their response when crimes happen. The leaders say its time for the community to be proactive.

Recent shooting victim 7-year-old Ariah Jackson.

Recent shooting victim 7-year-old Ariah Jackson.

A previous version of this story misstated the number of homicides that occurred in 2021. The article has been updated to reflect the correction.