Families of young adults killed in Windsor, Ont., demand more work to prevent youth violence

Gerri Greenwood says her grandson, Justin Greenwood, texted her the morning he was stabbed and killed on Tecumseh Road West in Windsor, Ont., four years ago.

Greenwood said the message was to let her know he would be there to help fix something on her back porch later that night.

“That’s the kind of kid he was,” she said, describing her 20-year-old grandson as a loving father of two daughters.

Greenwood said her funeral was attended by many people, including her primary school teachers, whose eyes filled with tears as they spoke of her infectious smile and polite nature.

Justin Greenwood was a father of two young daughters and was working as a roofer in Windsor, Ont., when he was killed four years ago. Her grandmother says recent reports of youth violence make her feel the city is going through a troubling change. (Submitted by Gerri Greenwood)

But as Greenwood mourned the loss of her grandson, the initial reaction from some members of the community made her angry and felt like they blamed Justin for his own death.

“Then I realized, I kind of get it because imagining anything else is just unfathomable, that someone would ever kill someone? We like to blame the victim.”

Carolyn Crankshaw felt a similar shock when she saw how people reacted to the 2019 murder of her 18-year-old son, Darrion Moffatt, in his own home.

“Basically blaming me for the people he was hanging out with, and I found that to be very insensitive.”

In the two Greenwood and Crankshaw cases, which are still before the courts, young adults under the age of 19 were charged.

Both women believe more needs to be done to protect young people in Windsor as police prioritize youth violence programs after noticing concerning trends.

‘It’s about tackling the issue of youth crime upstream,’ Windsor’s acting police chief Jason Bellaire told reporters in April, weeks after the shooting outside a bowling alley in Forest Glade . Several young adults, including a minor, have been charged.

Hard-to-reach help

Greenwood said recent reports of youth violence made him feel Windsor was undergoing a troubling change.

“It’s not the town I grew up in,” she said.

“I really feel like some young people, they don’t care. … I don’t know where the empathy has gone.”

A poster at a vigil for young people killed in Windsor shows photos of Darrion Moffatt, 18, who died in 2019. His mother says Moffatt’s organs were donated to save others. (Radio-Canada News)

Moffatt, who loved to sing and make people laugh, didn’t die instantly, his mother recalls.

“They kept him on life support so he could donate his organs,” Crankshaw said.

“He helped save three lives. For me, it’s amazing because he died a hero.”

Carolyn Crankshaw, left, and Gerri Greenwood are concerned about the number of young people committing violent acts in Windsor. Both women have experienced the loss of family members who were young adults. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Crankshaw said she didn’t know why her son was killed, but didn’t have much to say when she started worrying about who her son was hanging out with after he was victimized bullying at school.

“He was a good boy. He fell by the wayside and started hanging out with kids he thought felt like they had been accepted,” she said.

There are a lot of women and men aged 20 and under who have just been murdered. It’s crazy.– Gerri Greenwood of Windsor, Ont.

Crankshaw was able to connect her son with a psychologist once a month, but said not everyone can access such help.

“There really wasn’t a specialized program to help…and those that were, there were long waiting lists for him,” Crankshaw said.

Crankshaw and Greenwood both feel the justice system isn’t helping.

“It’s like a revolving door,” Crankshaw said.

“There needs to be a different approach to be able to stop this in its tracks because what they’ve done so far hasn’t helped.”

WATCH | Carolyn Crankshaw shares ideas on what Windsor residents could do to help young adults:

Carolyn Crankshaw’s call to action on youth violence in Windsor

Carolyn Crankshaw shares what she hopes everyday people in Windsor could do to help young adults. 1:21

Greenwood believes young people don’t have enough options.

“There’s not enough support for these kids,” she said.

“There are so many women and men aged 20 and under who have just been murdered. It’s crazy.”