WATERLOO — A lot of emotions went through William Corey Muhammad’s mind when he heard about the shooting death of 15-year-old Cortez Harrison.
He put that emotion onto Facebook Tuesday morning, asking people to gather at East Fourth and Newell streets in Waterloo later that day.
“All these young souls going to the grave and nobody is standing up, and it’s been happening far too long!” he posted.
And a lot of emotions were still coming through him Tuesday evening, as several dozen heeded his call and came out to support Cortez.
“I’m mad for real. And it ain’t mad out of frustration or foolishness — it’s a passion,” Muhammad, known to many as Coach Corey for his work with girls basketball at Waterloo East and in the community, told the crowd. “We gotta stop this foolishness. We gotta absolutely stop this, and it’s gotta stop now. Our energy’s gotta be spent on saving our youth.”
That passion, Coach Corey said in an interview, came from a constant frustration about what he said was a lack of support, resources and opportunities for the city’s north side. He experienced that himself as a kid, and now as a father wanted more for his children.
“We’ve just been so comfortable allowing it to happen, and we’ve become so numb to the feeling of it happening, and it just can’t continue to happen,” he said.
Cam Campbell of Waterloo was one of the first few to arrive at the rally with a sign that said “Cortez” and a heart. She said her stepson was friends with Cortez, Cortez’s grandmother lived a few houses away, and she officiated for a basketball tournament he played in.
The night Cortez was shot, Campbell was a block or two away at Gates Park, watching kids play basketball, turning her car’s headlights on so the kids could keep playing as the night grew darker.
“I was thinking, ‘Where is Cortez?’” Campbell said. “He should be over here playing with the kids.”
Just after 10 p.m. that night, Cortez showed up at the hospital with multiple bullet wounds. He was later pronounced dead.
Campbell got the call later that night.
“It’s tough,” she said. “We just have to rally together and stick together, and people need to know that we care.”
That was why Vikki Brown came to show her support Tuesday.
“When they see us out here like this, this shows that we care,” Brown, chair of the Black Hawk County Democrats, said. “All too often, things happen and (in a) couple of weeks, it’s over, it’s done ... But to see (people) en masse, it means a lot to the community.”
The crowd later gathered at nearby Gates Park, where a vigil for Cortez drew even more people, including some of the 15-year-old’s basketball teammates.
Mayor Quentin Hart called on anyone who knew anything about Cortez’s murder to tell someone about what they knew, whether it was a police officer or himself.
“I don’t want to be standing in this park again for a different situation,” Hart said. “We need to tell what we know.”
But he also implored the crowd to care for one another and be positive mentors for the youth.
“Love on these young people in this community,” Mayor Quentin Hart said. “They may have challenges, or things that you may not understand.”
A previous version of this article noted Vikki Brown did not know Cortez Harrison; she later clarified she knew him.
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