SAN ANTONIO – When Joey Gutierrez spoke with a San Antonio at-risk teen, he heard a mindset he said plagued him when he was a teen.
"You know, a lot of the youth here in the West Side, it’s like they set that goal. One day, I'm going to go to prison, so I can come out and have the status that he went to prison,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said he squeezed the trigger during a drive-by shooting when he was 14. His bullet struck a 78-year-old woman.
Gutierrez said it took many years to find forgiveness.
"I was convicted of murder," Gutierrez said.
A father of two, the happily married man said he turned to God during his 10 years in jail. He now supports his family by working as a plumber.
On Sunday's, Gutierrez can be found at Last Chance Ministries. His pastor, Jimmy Robles, said Gutierrez's testimony has the power to change lives.
Robles said he also once lived a rough life.
"I sold cocaine for 15 years," he said.
Known as "Pastor Jimmy," Robles has found a way to use his rough and tumble past to create a new life as a pastor. He and others have set up a Thursday evening prayer rally on the steps of San Antonio City Hall. Robles said it’s intended to positively inspire everyone to work toward the goal of stopping violence.
"We want all the leaders to walk away saying, ‘You know what? We do need to come together,’” Robles said.
Another man, pastor Murphy Henry, has helped Robles organize the anti-violence vigil at City Hall.
Henry has also had a rough past. He said he's put his past struggles to good use.
Henry said he hopes he can reach the young and the old with his message of stopping violence and leaning on spiritual strength, to combat the myriad of temptations that can change or even end a life in an instant.
"A bullet doesn't cost much. And what you're saying when you use that bullet is this is how much value you're putting on someone's life," Henry said.
On a warm July summer evening, pastors and people on all sides of the violence equation joined together on the steps of city hall, hoping they might somehow inspire even one life to change and hopefully not experience the pain of senselessly taking someone else's life.
"Nobody wins. I hurt my family by being incarcerated," Gutierrez said.