From death row to our city's streets: a man's mission to stop violence

Guns off the street

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – There is a push to get guns off our local streets to make the future of our cities safer. But the past of one man involved may surprise you.

Once spending time behind bars, Lee Bellamy is now working with the law, and his mission is to keep local teenagers from following his footsteps to prison.

"I took a man's life," Bellamy shared. "Out of greed and selfishness. I ended up on South Carolina death row," he continued, now a free man determined to make a difference.

He is a driving force behind Saturday's Stop the Violence Peace Festival & Countywide Community Safety Rally held at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Conway. A community coalition organized to stop the circulation of unlawful weapons and violence in Horry County's neighborhoods.

Community members, law enforcement agencies, and businesses all combined in the efforts.

"We're fighting with everything we have to get kids on the right track so we don't have to go to funerals," said Bellamy.

Spending the majority of his life behind bars, Bellamy is now running with the cops he once ran from, partnering with police to help curb the drug and gang activity in the area.

"My father was a pastor. My grandfather was a great man. I was raised right. But, somewhere along the way, I lost the way. I became involved in gang activity, involved in drugs," recalled Bellamy.

He knows what it is like to walk our streets, and said many gang members feel like there is no other option.

"They are doing it because they know nothing else. This is all they know. This is what they think it means to survive. But it is really just them being pushed by their own selfishness and greed," Bellamy said.

He has opened up a drug recovery home in the Green Sea area.

"I am conscious of what I did, what needs to be done. I am putting myself out there as a tool to help a young man," he said. He added he wants "to save them from their bodies being pierced with a bullet shot down on the street."

Saturday's event is to show those involved with criminal activity that there are other options.

Naquan Muhammad also overcame a past of violence, spending five years in prison. He is joining his voice with Bellamy's.

"We've been able to transform our lives, so now we're an example," expressed Muhammad. "We can tell young people, put the guns down, put them down. Pick up a book."

Muhammad said it should not take harming someone else for our teens to turn their lives around.

"We didn't collect the [guns] that will commit the next robbery or homicide. That's the unfortunate reality," Muhammad commented.

However, he added, the main point of the event is not just to get guns off of the street but to end the violence in our community.

"I count that as 70 lives saved. Because if those guns get in the wrong hands, those same people criticizing it, could easily become the victim," said Bellamy.

They realize today's gun buyback isn't the end to all violence, it is a beginning. "If you do nothing today, tomorrow it will be even worse," said Bellamy.

The guns collected today will be ran through a database to see if they are stolen or connected to any crime. The rest will be destroyed so they never make it back on the streets.

While officers didn't collect as many guns as last year, there was a bigger public turnout for the event which included public safety vendors and gun safety demonstrations.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.