AmeriCorps volunteer Joseph Massenburg shot to death in New Orleans

April 6, 2013 4:14:12 AM PDT
The death of a teenager who wanted to dedicate his life to public service is triggering an anti-violence movement after 18-year-old Joseph Massenburg was killed while volunteering with AmeriCorps.

His parents, both pastors, are sharing their grief.

Those pastors are struggling with the pain they so often help others manage as they search for answers to what happened to their son Joseph, a young man who they say had a gift for giving.

Pastors Andre and Sharon Massenburg's notions of service were imprinted on Joseph, who grew up in the pews, and had just started work with a National Civilian Community Corps Team on March 12.

"He's very charming," said Sharon Massenburg. "He's outgoing, a people person, all the above, never meet a stranger."

New Orleans police don't know what happened Monday night when the 18-year-old was gunned down.

He was on the phone with a friend back home when he was shot multiple times, bleeding into a drain just six blocks from his workplace, a non-profit that installs energy-efficient lighting. He died at a hospital.

"Our faith in God has brought us this far and it will continue to carry us on, support from one another and we'll make it," said Andre Massenburg.

Americorps Thursday pulled out Massenburg's NCCC team, as well as their sister squad that does this kind of service work, in the wake of the killing. Local charities say prospective volunteers often want to know the same thing

"Is the neighborhood they are going to be working with, is it a safe neighborhood? And the answer isn't always a uniform, 'Yes,'" said William Stoudt, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

Back in Matteson, this family harmed by gun violence, pledges only to do more.

"A lot of people that don't live in the inner city, they think they won't be touched by it, but you will because it is everywhere," Andre Massenburg said. "It just makes our resolve even harder to make people better around us."

The parents say their son intended to join the military after his volunteer work in New Orleans was finished.

Pastors Andre and Sharon want to urge young people to simply respect each other. That they say is the key to ending gun violence.