Father of homicide victim breaks down during church gathering with Mayor Evans

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ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) — Two local fathers whose sons were killed in city violence sat down with Rochester’s mayor in a call for peace.

Emotions were heavy inside the First Genesis Baptist Church Friday. Both fathers broke down in tears asking the community to put guns down.

Members of the community and anti-violence groups like Should Never Use Guns (SNUG) joined Rochester Mayor Malik Evans. Fathers Charles Lee Robinson Jr. and Lonnie Keys Sr., who have known each other since they were kids. Both lost sons: 28-year-old Lonnie Keys Jr., and 31-year-old Charles Robinson III, to a shooting on State Street on March 15.

The death of their children is something they never thought they’d have to experience together.

"I love my son dearly, and I know Lonnie loved his son too, this hurts so bad, my only son,” Robinson said, in tears.

Robinson said he left his roots in Rochester to move to Florida. He said he believes the death of his son was a calling from God to come back to the Flower City and help the community.

"He was the gateway, the pathway, for me to come to Rochester to help my people, and that’s what I’m here for,” Robinson said. “I want peace. I want unity and accountability and us as parents, men, we need to step up. We have to stop this. It’s up to us, the community needs to come around and show us support so we can get through this."

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Victor Saunders, the advisor for violence prevention programs under Mayor Evans’s administration says he agrees with the strategy to take the time and ask meaningful questions.

"We have a lot of wounded children in our community, psychological, social-emotional in our community and they need our help,” Saunders said.

Saunders said most of the time, people resort to violence because they think no one will listen.

"Don’t ask the leading question at the end, which is a homicide," Saunders said. "Ask the questions early on. What has been done to you, what trauma have you had to deal with, that you feel like you need to pick up a firearm?"

Robinson and Keys said they’ll continue to figure out ways to help people. That the death of their children will not be in vain.

"But now I see, he was the gateway, the pathway, for me to come to Rochester to help my people,” Robinson added.

There are still no suspects in custody for the double homicide. Anyone with information is asked to call 911.