Mother moves her children out of Rochester to escape gun violence

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A heartbroken mother who has lost so much to gun violence in the City of Rochester has decided enough is enough. Jamillia Centeno has packed up what remains of her family and moved out of state. She’s literally running away from the gun violence that has taken the life of her son, nephew, and a number of other family members.

Jeremy Hamilton Jr. was Jamillia Centeno’s first-born son.

“He was into sports, always had many friends,” she tells News10NBC. “He has eight siblings under him, so he was always a protector, the big brother.”

In April of 2022, Hamilton got into an argument with Trevor Smith III and while running back to his car, he was shot multiple times. A friend got Hamilton to a gas station on the corner of St. Paul Street and Clifford Avenue.

“I just got a call that Jeremy got shot and we can’t locate him,” Centeno recalls and, in a rush, to get information, “I clicked on Facebook and saw my son’s body [lying] on the ground during a Facebook live someone was doing from the gas station.”

Following the murder, Smith fled to the State of Texas. Rochester Police and the U.S. Marshals Violent Felony Fugitive Task Force traveled to Harris County, Texas to locate Smith and arrest him. A jury found Smith guilty of killing Hamilton and last week, he was sentenced to 23-years-life in prison. While Centeno was in the courtroom every day of the trial and during sentencing, she no longer calls Rochester home. She packed up her children and moved south.

“I just feel like Rochester, there’s no fear,” she says. “I’m getting a gun, period and I will shoot you and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. I was born and raised in that city, that’s the Flower City, never in a million years would I have imagined that all this violence would be going on in such a beautiful place.”
It’s not just her son’s death that’s made her feel this way, “Literally the day before my son was murdered, a very close cousin of mine passed away over a drug OD, then the next day after Jeremy was murdered, my nephew Dallas was shot at Goodman Plaza in the head and died,” she says through tears.

A few months before that, her nephew Jahkeem Douglas was killed while inside a rented out home filming a music video for his cousin who was murdered in 2019.

“I feel like the streets of Rochester are not safe and the communities feel that way, so, they in return reach out to something that they feel keeps them “safe” and it’s a gun, a firearm, a pistol, a 9mm, whatever and that shouldn’t be,” Centeno says.

It’s a vicious, violent cycle and Centeno couldn’t see an end in sight.

“You can’t blow your horn in that city the wrong way, someone will try to chase you. Like they’re filled with rage, their filled with anger and I feel like it’s because of all the killings and the gun violence that have families in the edge,” she says.

Community leaders, police, and city officials have been working to try and curb the violence and there are programs that are making a difference, but Centeno says she simply can’t wait around for things to change because she’s already lost so much.

Pictures of Jeremy Hamilton Jr. below: