00:23 AM

UHCL criminology department presents 'Kids of Santa Fe'

Charlie Minn
"People need to talk more and argue less. College is a great place to talk about stories like this," said Charlie Minn, creator of "The Kids of Santa Fe."

Documentary filmmaker Charlie Minn says gun violence is one of the harshest realities in American society. That's why he's drawn to telling the stories of innocent people who are murdered in the midst of the most normal activities — going to school, watching a movie, attending a concert.

The Department of Social and Cultural Sciences Criminal Justice and Criminology program at University of Houston-Clear Lake presented the film, "The Kids of Santa Fe," screened at the Bayou Theater this week. The film highlights the heroes, survivors and families of what Minn describes as the "largest unknown mass shooting."

"Showing this movie at colleges is critical to raise awareness, to inform and to educate," Minn said. "The students here are the present, not just the future. They don't know how powerful they are."

He added that he hoped students would get a sense of the reality of the situation. "Even though it's a local tragedy that happened only about 15 miles from here, very few people know the specifics about what happened. It's one of the worst incidents of gun violence that's ever happened in the Houston area, but you wouldn't know it, because it doesn't get talked about. It's as if it was all swept under the rug."

Minn said that gun violence has become so common, people hear about an incident, shake their heads, and just move on. He believes the situation is out of control.

"People file and forget," he said. "I hope people walked out of the movie feeling emotional and angry, but much more informed. It would be almost impossible for students to see this movie and not be affected — it's that significant. People have gone through such trauma, but the rest of us forget there's an aftermath. We can move on, but they can't."

More than anything, Minn said he hoped the film would trigger students to become activists. "We all agree there's a big problem, we just don't agree on the solutions," he said. "There doesn't seem to be an end in sight. People need to talk more and argue less. We have a horrible lack of awareness in this country, and I think college is a great place to talk about a story like this, that needs attention and dialog."

"This film benefits criminal justice and criminology students because it puts a human face on gun violence," said Associate Professor of Criminology and Kimberly Dodson."We hear about gun violence and see the news stories, but we don't know what it is like to experience this first-hand."

She said students will likely work cases involving gun violence over the course of their careers. "It is important for them to understand they will face critical stress incidents that may affect their mental health," she explained. "They need to understand these stressors in advance so that they are not afraid to seek out help. They also need to be prepared to offer professional support to the victim-survivors of gun violence."

She added that it was imperative that criminal justice professionals know the community resources available, and how to put the survivors in touch with the proper resources and support.

"We are living in a time when shootings happen and it's a headline for a day, and then people move on. It's an evil cycle," Minn said. "The media does not cover these shootings the right way. I focus on the good Samaritans, the heroes, the survivors and the families. I never mention the killer's name because I think it glorifies them and inspires copycats. I want to tell the stories of heroism that took place at Santa Fe that people don't know about."

For more information about UHCL's Criminal Justice and Criminology degrees, go online.