PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — City leaders and community members are looking for solutions to halt the gun violence that is taking the lives of Portland teens. Two have died this month already and five others have been shot and injured in the past few weeks.           

Lionel Irving was a former gang member who now runs a nonprofit organization called Love is Stronger. It consists of nine other former gang members who have turned a life of violence into a life of service.

“Intercommunity violence is up across America,” said Irving. “And it just happens to be in our community we solve our problems with guns so then gun violence is up in our community.”

The group pays former gang members to do de-escalation work in parts of Portland that see a high number of shootings. They’ve had a team stationed at Dawson Park since March of 2022 and he said since then shootings there have dropped at least 85%.

“We have a guy there at Dawson Park, he’s a gang veteran and when somebody’s getting into an argument he’s like ‘hey man, ya’ll kill that noise’ if it’s a disagreement, if somebody’s bringing harm to somebody else,” said Irving

Irving said parents have a critical role to play, but he said his group can’t do it alone and is pleading with families to help.

“Go get your children, if you can’t handle them then call somebody who can,” said Irving. “Give me a call, and that’s important and when I say ‘go get them’ don’t be mean, go get them and love them and bring them home because that’s one of the biggest problems we have, too, is that kids are becoming too much for their parents”

Irving’s 19-year- old nephew, Donte Davis, was tragically shot in the head on November 1 in Woodlawn Park and did not survive.

“He was very respectful, he liked to pump people up, make them feel good,” said Irving.

“He had a bright future, I can’t even begin to describe the pain.”

Donte is the second teenager shot and killed in Portland in the last few weeks. His death follows that of 18-year-old Parnell Badon Jr, who was gunned down Saturday, Nov. 19 at a hotel near the airport.  Portland police told KOIN 6 News they believe half of the shootings in the city are connected to gangs.

Irving, however, doesn’t agree with that number.

“It’s really hard to distinguish who’s a gang member and who’s not,” said Irving. “Did a gang member shoot them? We don’t know until the police arrest them but the person who passed away wasn’t a gang member so we just qualify it as a gang shooting because a young man passed away, we’ve got to really be careful about that”