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UNT behavioral expert weighs in on deadly gun violence trends involving young suspects

Dr. Scott Walters teaches the steps to address anger to help children get to a non-violent conflict resolution.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Vashunte Settles and her family never expected to experience the kind of grief they are living with now after a very unexpected death. 

The Dallas mother is urging other people to do whatever it takes to protect their children from gun violence. She just lost her son

"Protect your babies at all costs," said Settles. "You can't get them back. I will never see my son again."

Settles' son died after an argument involving two other families got out of control and escalated to gunfire. Her son, 11-year-old De'Evan McFall, was an innocent bystander, according to police. The shooting happened at the Signature at Southern Oaks Apartments. Police arrested a 14-year-old girl in connection with his death.

Officers recovered the weapon that took the boy's life. It left his entire family devastated, especially since he had nothing to do with the argument taking place at the complex.  

"Stop killing each other. I never thought I would be standing here doing this for one of my babies," said Lois Williams, the boy's grandmother.

Dr. Scott Walters is a professor at the University of North Texas. He is one of UNT's health behavior experts and is well-versed in conflict resolution.  

He believes the access to weapons is just one of the contributors to what is happening when it comes to the number of shootings across the country.  

"It makes me really sad," said Walters. 

Walters shared his thoughts about what seems like a spike across the country: children using guns to resolve their conflicts.

"In our society today, kids are more likely to be influenced by the simple availability of weapons. So, if a kid is angry like we all were a kid and made decisions that way and then the straightest line to resolving the situation is a gun," Walters said. "Just like we were and when we were kids, I think kids have to be taught to think through the steps of what are what are proper ways to approach a situation and what are the steps to de-escalate that situation and get an outcome that I'm going to like. At the end of the day, easy access to guns can also influence how a child would resolve a conflict."

In another case being investigated by the Fort Worth Police Department, gamily and friends are grieving the death of boxing trainer Joe Guzman.

Arturo Ortega could not believe it when he learned that Guzman was dead. He has known the trainer all of his life and appreciated the life-changing advice he got from him. 

"He was there when I was born," said Ortega. "So ever since then, he's like your friend." 

The 60-year-old was fatally shot during an argument at his home. Fort Worth police described the suspect as an underage family member. 

Details about what led to the shooting are still under investigation. The young family member is in juvenile custody, according to police. 

Walters also teaches identifying anger issues.

"One thing I like to use is to get a child to identify what's happening and what they're feeling. So instead of just being generally frustrated, people are aware that they're angry," said Walters. 

Walters believes that learning conflict resolution has never been more important, especially after deadly shootings in North Texas involving young suspects.


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