Grieving mother paints mural for children lost to gun violence in Kenmore – Akron Beacon Journal

Posted in Tattoo Shop on Nov 11, 2020

Doug Livingston|Akron Beacon Journal

The hearts are like fresh fingerprints from a friend murdered months ago.

As Janine Surgens family paints her face in a mural sketched by Christopher Harden, the first heart appeared at the center of a rose then in the clouds above a cold, dark street leading straight to heaven. Covering graffiti on the side of a craft store in Kenmore, the mural is about 50 feet from where Surgen, 20, was fatally shot multiple times on July 3 in broad daylight.

Janine Surgen's death reported: 20-year-old homicide victim identified as family says police may have shooting suspect

This stuff really has to stop. Ive lost at least 13 friends just this year, said Harden, 25, who knew Surgen since they were kids.

I dont think I can handle another one. You know what I mean? said Harden, who is engaged to be married with a first child on the way.

The Kenmore man has admittedly wasted too much of his life in the penitentiary, serving time for aggravated robbery and other charges. He now hopes to open a tattoo shop, which was the last thing Surgen wanted to do before she died.

Im trying to change my life, he said. I turned my life to God. Im trying to open my own tattoo business. And Im trying to do stuff with the Stop the Violence [campaign in Kenmore] with Brenna [Surgen, Janines mother], because it is a sad situation.

The mural on the side of Black's Mary, an art supply store at the corner of Kohler Avenue and 27th Street SW, will feature Janines face and the names of seven other young people from the neighborhoodlost to gun violence.

Halfthese murders remain unsolved. Some are years old.

Brenna Surgen, Janines mother, got the idea to memorialize her daughter while shopping at the art supply store her daughter frequented in her younger years. Marilyn Berresford, who owns the shop with her sister Marsha Stewart, told Brenna how she remembered Janineas that sweet young girl alwayswalking her small dog in the neighborhood.

Berresford "didn't hesitate" when asked Friday about allowing the mural to go up.

"I just feel it'san honor that we would be chosen to have that done on our building. Its just a terrible tragedy whats going on in Akron and this Kenmore area," Berresford said.

Berresford said she was dismayed to hear that Brenna Surgen was asked 45 days after the murder of her daughter to take down a memorial on a nearby telephone.

The mural is something more permanent, something sacred enough to end the graffiti andhopefullymove thissouthwest corner ofAkron closer to ending the gun violence thats gripped Americathis year.

Harden agreed to design and sketch the mural. Janine's mother, her survivingsisters and their kidsare contributing brush strokes. The projectwas expected to be done Tuesday.

It hit me last night that Im putting my daughter on a wall as a memorial and shes never coming back, Brenna Surgen said earlier this week.

The mother has attended every virtual hearing in her daughters murder case. Three people have been charged in her death:Jaleel Bryant Sojouner, 25;Xaxier Tolbert, 17;and Calvin Thompson, 16, who police believe pulled the trigger.

About the arrests: 3 arrested in fatal shooting of 20-year-old woman in Kenmore

I still have a lot of anger and rage and unanswered questions, said Brenna Surgen. In the months without her daughter, shes tried to channel her grief into something positive, helping out with the neighborhood Stop the Violence effort andnow by publiclydisplaying the names of lives taken too young.

I have my good days and my bad days. At bedtime, when all the kids are asleep and its quiet, it sneaks up on me and hits me in the head like a 2 by 4, said Brenna. Im trying to, for lack of better words, stay strong.

The artistic display of loss includes Janine's face and the names of other lives lost. They are:

Isaiah Chapman, a gentle soul nicknamed Beast for his talents as an MMA fighter and a wrestler and football player at Kenmore High School. Chapman, who had two daughters and a son, was fatally shot outside his home on April 7.

A day after the shooting, the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force and Akronpolice arrested Christopher Blouir, 29, who is awaiting trial on aggravated murder charges.

Anna Karam, who was 16 years old, four months pregnant and baby-sitting at an Akron home on Jan. 6, 2013, when 26-year-old David Stoddard of Barberton shot her dead. Another woman, who survived, was struck in the head.

Witnesses told police that Stoddard, who was later sentenced to life in prison,was looking for an ex-girlfriend.

Cody James Herring, 20, was found Oct. 21, 2018, in the drivers seat of a car on Merton Avenue with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Two others were struck in the shooting, which is still unsolved.

Hunter Heath Herring, Cody's brother, is also remembered in the mural. He died Nov.26, 2019, after battling cancer for 14 months. He was one month shy of his 19th birthday.

Xavier McMullen, 17,fatally shot himself on Aug. 25, 2017, while handcuffed in the backseat of a police cruiser, according to an autopsy and police investigation. A wrongful death lawsuit filed by his mother, Lisa Carswell, is pending against the city of Akron and its police department.

Rebecca Tomlinson, 22, was found by a man walking his dog on Aug. 18, 2020,near Maryland Avenue and Fifth Street Southwest, on an access road along the railroad tracks. She was shot.

Timothy Sargent, 42, was arrested in North Dakota following a multi-state manhunt involving four shootings in three states. Lt. Michael Miller of the Akron Police Department said Tuesday that Sargent is a "person of interest" in Tomlinson's killing, though no charges have yet been filed. Sargent, who is now in the Summit County Jail,has been charged with the murder of a man on the Towpath Trail on Aug. 17, a day before Tomlinson's body was discovered.

Tyler Bryce Anderson was 17 when his body was found in the driveway of a Kenmore home in May of 2012. Police still have no suspects. He was discovered by a pair of teenagers walking home from school at 3 p.m. on21st Street, the same street where Surgen died.

Keijuan M. Harrison, 22, was walking nearFlorida Avenue and 6thStreet last month when he was shot. Police transported Harrison to a hospital, where he died of his injuries. He went by "Kiwi." According to his obituary, he enjoyed "drawing, singing, dancing and making everyone around him laugh."

His death remains unsolved.

"I know I have a long road ahead of me," said Brenna Surgen. "I'm trying to stay proactive by getting involved in things such as the mural and the stop the violence group out here. I'm even thinking about starting a support group for mothers and parents who have lost loved ones to murder, because there's no local groups around. There's grief support groups, but there aren't any for homicide.

"When you lose someone to homicide, it is a whole different type of anger and rage and grief."

Reach Beacon Journal reporter Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.

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Grieving mother paints mural for children lost to gun violence in Kenmore - Akron Beacon Journal

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