South Bend, Ind. Organizers are circulating a petition to rename Coquillard Park in honor of the 2-year-old South Bend boy shot and killed by a stray bullet while playing in the area.
John Swoveland, Jr. was the victim of gun violence on April 9. Since then, family friends Bob and Laura DeZenzo have worked to gain signatures on a petition dedicating the park to his memory.
“It was such a waste and such a needless action that happened,” Bob DeZenzo said. “So we decided that it would honor the child and it would remind the community of the violence that's going on.”
Some neighbors agree with the change, saying it would increase the awareness of gun violence in the area.
“I think it will actually be a good idea,” said Ebony Ivory, who lives near the park. “It would actually remind me of him when I come to the park.”
But others say they would rather not discard the Coquillard name, a tribute to one of South Bend’s founding fathers, Alexis Coquillard.
“I think there's a compromise,” said South Bend Council Member Dr. Fred Ferlic, who represents the district where the park is located. “Obviously it was a tragedy, but I don't think you can rename a city street every time a tragedy occurs.”
Organizers say they understand the concern, but think the area is ready for a fresh start.
“We want to give it a whole new face, give it a name and give it an image so that people feel safe going there,” DeZenzo said. “You're going to want to send your kids down to the park and feel safe doing so. Is that a pipe dream? Perhaps, but we think it’s going to help.”
Ferlic suggested separate memorials for the toddler within the park, or even adding Swoveland’s name to the title rather than replacing Coquillard.
“You have to honor John, too, and there's a lot of ways to do it,” he said. “So I'm glad they're getting a petition and I hope they get 5000 signatures. But I think you can do it in a very discreet and honorary way that everyone would want.”
Click here for a link to the petition