Family says drowning victim was caught on wrong side of gang

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email
Calvin Cunningham (WRDW-TV)

Calvin Cunningham (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, May 30, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- On Thursday night, family and friends got together to remember a 19-year-old boy who drowned in the Augusta Canal.

On Sunday, Calvin Cunningham jumped into the canal to try and swim across, but he never made it. He got caught in the undercurrent.

It's still hard for the Cunninghams to even comprehend.

Calvin was a former Academy of Richmond County student and a Fort Gordon Challenge Academy graduate with plans to join the Navy, and now, he's gone.

"I have a pain that just won't go away," said his mother. "Losing a child is losing a part of you, and I wouldn't wish this on my enemy."

On Sunday, Calvin jumped into the Augusta Canal, trying to get to the other side.

"Calvin swims very well, so he assumed he could swim from one side of the canal to the other side, and he got caught in he undercurrent and pulled under," his mother said.

At the time, he was trying to get away from his cousin, a Richmond County deputy, but not for reasons you might expect.

"A couple of weeks ago my son was telling me that he was having some issues with the guys in the neighborhood," she said.

Calvin had not been home since Wednesday and his parents had reported him missing.

"This is not like my son," she said. "We were just trying to figure out why he didn't come home."

The Cunninghams say they soon found out Calvin had received threats against his family after refusing to join a gang.

"They said he could not come home because he would not join the gang," she explained.

So he stayed away.

"My son loved his family, that was the first and foremost thing," she said.

When his cousin spotted him Sunday, Calvin did what he could to keep his family safe.

"He was afraid that if he came home those guys would make good on their promise and do something to either myself, my husband or my other two children," said his mother.

But she says she never would have let that happen if she had just known.

"If I had to move him across the world, I would have to get him out of it," she said.

Now, she wants to make sure other children who are being pressured or bullied take her son's death as a message.

"Don't try to take care of it yourself. Get some help. Talk to your parents. If you can't talk to your parents, talk to family members, talk to anybody you can talk to," she said.

She says parents need to be more aware as well. She says to watch your children and notice when they start acting different or when something isn't right.

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