Hundreds of crime survivors, victims’ families rallying at Florida Capitol for change Tuesday

Hundreds of crime victims and their families are going to Tallahassee for a rally on Tuesday to call on lawmakers to craft legislation to help survivors of violent crimes and families of victims.

Janice and Ronnie Fields held their son’s high school diploma. It’s the same diploma Rashaud Fields received just a few hours before he was shot and killed at a graduation party in May 2022.

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For the first time, Janice and Ronnie are going to the state capitol along with hundreds of other crime victims and families to fight for policy changes.

“I am trying to be strong for them also and for myself,” Janice said. “That is the reason why I’m really going on this trip because they are feeling the same pain that I am feeling. They lost a child.”

“‘Daddy, I love you,’” Ronnie said are some of the words his son used to always say to him. “You always keep that love. That is keeping me motivated in life and to help keep going on. There were no bad things about him. He was just a good kid. He enjoyed himself. He loved life and loved his family.”

Daryl Crowden is also going for the first time.

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Crowden lost three of his sons to gun violence who were all killed between 2014 and 2023.

Devron Crowden was shot and killed in Jacksonville in Dec. 2014. He was 16 years old.

Ra’Kwon Backey was killed in the driveway of his Westside home in August 2017. He was 19 years old.

In October, Darius Murray was murdered in the River City. He was 28 years old.

Crowden said his brother, Jeffrey Reed, was killed in 1998. His case still has not been solved.

“I hate to see parents waking up every day feeling the way I have felt three times,” Crowden said. “If I can be a part of helping this change, and hopefully me coming aboard, might help a lot of other brothers.”

One of the groups leading the effort is Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, which is a national network of crime survivors with close to 14,000 members throughout Florida.

It aims to help heal communities and influence public policy.

This year’s focus in Tallahassee is to adjust penalties for low-level probation violations, seal low-level misdemeanor records so people’s employment status is not affected, and fund trauma recovery services in Jacksonville to serve crime victims and their families.

Patricia Ward is going to the rally for the fourth straight year. She led the way to get Curtis’ Law passed in Florida last year.

It’s named after Ward’s son, Curtis Williamson, who was murdered in California nearly 26 years ago.

He was 16 years old at the time.

The law requires families to get basic information for victims under 18 years old.

That includes case numbers, contact numbers from every investigator working on the case, and information from the medical examiner.

“Don’t keep re-traumatizing them,” Ward said. “That is what Curtis’ Law is about. We do not want loved ones re-traumatized, over and over again. When survivors speak, change happens.”

Buses are departing Tuesday morning from at least two different locations.

One will be from outside The Families and Slain Children on North Myrtle Avenue at 6 a.m. (2212 N. Myrtle Avenue).

Another will be at 7:15 a.m. outside the Beaver Street Enterprise Center on W. Beaver Street. (1225 W. Beaver Street).

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