Lakeland man sets goal of creating violence prevention program following mass shooting in his hometown

Gregory Smith grew up on North Iowa Avenue in Lakeland. Monday afternoon, a barrage of bullets rang out on that street in broad daylight as children walked home from the school bus.

"I used to walk up and down those same streets, even get off the bus like those kids were," Smith said. "It was truly disturbing."

Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor said officers are looking for at least four suspects who were involved in the mass shooting Monday that injured 11 people. He said the shooting was targeted. 

The chief said officers found a felony amount of marijuana at the scene, which indicates there was possibly some type of drug sale occurring. It's unclear if all 11 victims were targeted or if some may have just been caught in the crossfire.

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"I’m going to do whatever I can to see if I can make the best out of this – make a better situation. We have to start somewhere," Smith said.

He said seeing the number of mass shootings across the country so far this year, he had wanted to do something to help end the violence, and Monday’s shooting at his former doorstep was the tipping point.

Smith is a barber instructor and goes to school for welding. He said he wants to share both skills with the community.

"I just want to take some of my skills and take the time, maybe on the weekend or something, to teach these other people in this community who may be or maybe not committing these crimes, or just for the generation after them, so they can pick up something other than a gun," he said.

Smith said he also plans to reach out to community groups and churches about creating a violence prevention program. It’s personal for him. His aunt, best friend, and friend’s child all died from gun violence.

"It’s all people that I know. It’s all people who I’ve had conversations with. It’s all people who I touched, cared for, loved, friends, family, you know, so I have to be heartless not to want to be active," Smith said.

He also said if everyone worked together, there wouldn’t be room for violence.

"I feel like if everybody would take a little bit of time out of their lives and do something for somebody who can’t do something for themselves or do something for someone who’s stuck in a position and don’t know how to get out of it, we can teach them a trade. If you can do your part, I think we can all maybe come out of this together and maybe, one day, stop the violence," Smith said.

Taylor said Tuesday morning, officers found the car they believe the suspects were in during the shooting. He said they have very promising leads on those suspects.

The police department and Heartland Crimestoppers are offering a reward of up to $5,000 to anyone with information that leads to an arrest of the suspects. Anonymous tips can be submitted by dialing 1-800-226-8477 or heading to the website: