Crosses tell stories of McDuffie County’s killings


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Police officers typically fight crime on their own, but one man is working to curb killings in McDuffie County. A Thomson man took a bold step to help people understand that there are too many people dying in town and he’s hoping his efforts put a stop to the violence.

Take a drive down Martin Luther King Jr. St. in Thomson and you will see several white crosses with names. No, it’s not a cemetery. It’s the site of the old Pine Street School, which stands in a neighborhood where people are dying all the time.

“All this happened within a three, four, five month period, all these deaths that was gun related.”

Tyisha, Brian and especially Fila are all gun violence victims Candido Wilson once knew.

“Me and his father, we actually grew up in this neighborhood and we used to fight all the time,” Wilson recalled. “As I kept coming back to Thomson, Fila had befriended my daughter and he became like a little son to me.”

Fila’s story, according to Wilson, ended with an altercation over stolen goods that turned into a gun exchange at the one way sign on MLK Street.

“Brian, he died prior to Fila. He got shot on the other side of the church in the apartment complexes down there.”

Believe it or not, there’s a story for every one.

“Tyisha, she’s actually my cousin’s daughter.”

Wilson hand crafts the wooden crosses, paints them white, adds a name in black and places them in front of McDuffie Achievement Center, where at one time the very thing that killed the victims was prohibited.

“We got a couple black people that got shot and killed by white people, but the majority of these deaths happened by other black individuals and that’s just crazy.”

Wilson said there’s white on white violence too but they don’t outnumber black on black crime. He said young people pick up guns instead of enjoying recess at the lone playground closed for HeadStart students. Old clubs where majority of the shootings happened in the ’80s and ’90s are still there along with abandoned buildings.

“It all starts at home. If they ain’t being raised right and they ain’t got the things that I was raised with, morals and stuff like that. They lost respect for the community,” he said.

NewsChannel 6 conducted a Facebook Live post about the problem to talk with loved ones of victims.  While no one agreed to interview with us, Wilson’s story reached Thomson’s police chief.

Chief John Seay told us it really does take community members like Wilson to solve the problem.

“Once the public says hey we’ve had enough I think you can curb it or maybe even stop it.”

He added, “We have too many young people that have access to firearms and they have no respect for what a firearm will do. They have no respect for themselves and they have no respect for anybody else.”

“I got 10 more that’s going to go in this area soon for the black deaths,” Wilson said. I got 10 more for the white deaths. And I got 10 more for the car related incidents and the numbers are steadily growing.”

Wilson added he thinks kids need more to do in the community and he’s hoping more can be done with the old school where the crosses sit.

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