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Former gang members calling for 'peace agreement' to curb violence in San Diego

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Jul 28, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Through his group, "Shaphat Outreach," Bishop Cornelious Bowser, spends a lot of time working on new strategies to interrupt violence in our communities, currently focusing specifically on gangs in southeastern San Diego.

"We know that these individuals they do want peace right or they at least want to be able to go to the store or where they want to go without somebody trying to shoot and kill them," said Bowser, who is also a former gang member. "We got to have everybody at the same table, with the same understanding."

Thursday night, Shaphat Outreach is planning on connecting former gang members with those actively involved, with hopes of coming to a peace agreement between rival gangs, and possibly convincing some to leave the lifestyle behind.

"We would like to get people in the community engaged in slowing down and disrupting the violence, and the best way to do that is to have people talk to them from their own neighborhoods from their own communities," said Robert Wood, also involved with Shaphat Outreach as a violence interrupter.

Wood, a former gang member, spent 17 years locked up in federal prison. He turned his life around, earned several college degrees, and now uses his personal experience to reach the younger generations.

"The main message I pass to them is it's not fun, you're going to lose family, you're going to lose friends, my mom passed away when I was incarcerated, that hurt," said Wood. "Peace brings prosperity, in times of peace you have time to think, you have time to educate yourself."

And the work doesn't end with one conversation.

"Let's just say before the summer is out, we get several gangs to agree to a cease fire, what's next?" said Bowser.

A mentorship. One that Bowser and Wood hope will help young men and women reach their full potential.

"We have to set up goals, we have to set up a life map," said Bowser.

"If you change your thinking, you can change your feelings, if you change your feelings, you can change your behaviors, and if you change your behaviors you can get different outcomes."