Local woman forms anti-violence group

Around 50 students, faculty and members of the Gannon University community attended the speaking engagement for National Criminal Justice Month on Monday.

Sonya Arrington, founder of Mothers Against Teen Violence (MATV), spoke on the importance of raising awareness in the community about teen violence and steps to preventing it from happening.

Eric Giopdos, a freshman business administration major, attended the event for extra credit in his history class. Despite not being a criminal justice major, he said that he enjoyed the speaker and gained insight from the experience.

“I thought she did a really good job speaking to everyone and keeping her composure,” he said in regards to Arrington discussing the tribulations she has experienced due to her deceased son.

Arrington was inspired to found MATV when her son, Steve Arrington II, was shot multiple times shortly after walking out of his uncle’s store early last year.

“I lost something that no one could give me back,” Arrington said.

The case was taken to court twice. The final decision was made last October to sentence the 17-year-old shooter to 20 years for third-degree murder. Arrington remains discontent with the sentence, stating that it should have been longer due to numerous past offenses the juvenile had committed.

Arrington commented that the juvenile system has room for improvement based on the mere 20 years the offender received for his crime.

The incident devastated his family, especially his mother, whom he had a very close relationship with. In fact, he loved his mother so much that he decided to remain at her house, living under her rules, which entailed curfew.

Steve Arrington II was described as a very tech-savvy person (working on the Best Buy “Geek Squad”) who enjoyed rapping and loved his mother. He also had a girlfriend, who is also struggling with the loss. The two have a daughter who is now two years old.

“She looks so much like him,” Arrington commented with a sense of admiration in her voice.

Maria L. Garase, Ph.D., chair of the criminal justice and social work department, was in attendance.

“Many times our students do not have the opportunity to hear from the victim (or family of the victim) about their experience with the criminal justice system,” she said. “This speaking engagement provided an opportunity for students to hear a message that they otherwise would not glean from a textbook.”

National Criminal Justice Month was first established in March 2009, Garase said. The month is dedicated to raising awareness in hopes of future improvement of the criminal justice system.

Arrington, the death of her son and the sentence of his murderer exemplifies how the criminal justice system can be improved upon in the perspective of another person. Arrington’s bitterness toward the juvenile system was present, Garase said.

“Being only 14 months out from when her son was brutally murdered, shot 5 times outside of a convenience store, it appears that Mrs. Arrington still holds strong emotions toward the criminal justice system,” Garase said.

She added that it is important to note Arrington presented her emotions and opinions about the criminal justice system as she and her family directly experienced it. 

“At the same time, she is attempting to channel this energy into championing how to cultivate pro-social behavior among today’s youth,” Garase said. “She is taking her personal tragedy to the community to say that this is a problem and we as a community are responsible for trying to help our young people be successful.”  

Arrington said that she fills the void of losing her son by educating others and raising awareness. She has spoken to many audiences and has even held rallies through MATV to support the cause, including the “Stop the Violence” event held last year.

Arrington can be contacted at her Erie MATV website, matverie.com.

JUSTIN COOPER

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