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Ball field to memorialize Riverdale shooting victim

By Justin Boron

Memories of Travon Wilson still linger in the Riverdale neighborhoods where more than five months ago he lived and was caught tragically in the crossfire of a shooting that police said was gang related.

His death at four years old brought community awareness about gang violence to an apex in June.

Now, a cooperative effort between the Clayton County commission and the city of Riverdale aims to make Wilson's memory a symbol for community safety by naming a ball field at the Riverdale Recreation Center after him.

County Commissioner Virginia Gray said a citizen request for a memorial pushed her to bring the matter to her colleagues at the county.

"We want to give some honor and memory to the child and to hopefully help this family to really see that we care," she said. "This will be something to put their memory in a positive light."

Wilson's grandmother, Glenda Darville, who was grazed by a bullet in the shooting, said she did not want to speak about the topic until the naming was finalized.

But Dexter Matthews, the president of the Clayton County branch of the NAACP, said the naming was a fitting gesture.

Matthews attended one of the many vigils held for Wilson in the weeks after the shooting.

"It's a great move on their part," he said, adding it would help to remind the community that gangs are still a problem.

"We still need to work on it," he said. "Hopefully we can try to control what's going on not just in Riverdale but in the whole county."

School Board member-elect Lois Baines Hunter helped mentor Wilson's grandmother after the incident.

Like Matthews, she also said Wilson's memory should serve to better the community.

"I just hope that the community will keep up with what they're doing now in being proactive with the violence around young people . . . not just when something happens but in day to day life."

The numerous candlelight vigils ornamented with dolls and children's toys also brought out other parents of children victimized by random violence.

Naomi Kennedy Caldwell met Wilson's grandparents with sympathy from her own experience with violent loss.

Her son, Marcus Johnson, was killed by a stray bullet in February.

"Today is my birthday, and I thought of no better way to spend it," she said at the June 16 vigil.

Rounding up the number of people involved in the shooting became an extensive task for the Riverdale Police Department During the course of its investigation, the department made several arrests, some as far away as Conyers.

But since June, four people have been accused and await trial for the incident.

The county resolution for Wilson will be voted on at the next county commission meeting Nov. 16.