Fort Worth

Community activist’s arrest doesn’t deter efforts to lift up Las Vegas Trail

The recent arrest of a community figure has not slowed rebuilding efforts by civic leaders determined to uplift a neighborhood in pain, project organizers said.

Abdul Chappell, 46, a prominent face on the Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project, known as LVT Rise, was arrested earlier this month and has given up his seat at the table.

Chappell said he became disenchanted with the project — a partnership of private companies, human service organizations and government agencies — because funding to expand the programs he created was not provided.

The Star-Telegram did a series of stories more than a year ago which brought the plight of that neighborhood into sharp relief.

Since then, project organizers at the United Way of Tarrant County have obtained annual funding from the city of Fort Worth that will allow the creation of an LVT Rise staff and assist in acquiring land for a community center in the area, an emailed statement from the United Way said. More than $300,000 has been collected from private foundations, the statement said.

“Our focus continues to be on creating a brighter future for the residents of Las Vegas Trail,” the statement said.

The LVT Rise program is the brainchild of City Councilman Brian Byrd and is overseen by United Way of Tarrant County CEO T.D. Smyers. The overarching aim of the partnership is to improve the lives of residents in the impoverished and long-neglected neighborhood.

Rebuilding Las Vegas Trail is a long-term project that comes after at least 30 years of gradual deterioration, Byrd said.

The United Way deployed a bus it calls a Mobile Community Center that delivers services and support — such as job search, food assistance and financial counseling — while making stops at several of the apartment complexes in the Las Vegas Trail community.

The newest LVT Rise committee member, Pastor Derwin Harris of Restoration Center West, said a charity he directs with the same name as his church will provide monthly STEM camps for the children of Las Vegas Trail and a program to improve residents’ health.

Harris helped organize volunteers who escorted children to and from school after a vicious attack in April that critically injured Dorika Unimana, a 13-year-old student waiting for the school bus to take her to the International Newcomer Academy.

Dorika’s heart was damaged during the attack, but she is recovering from a heart transplant operation she received in July, and is expected to need medication for the rest of her life.

The man accused in the attack, Terry Wayne King Jr., was in Tarrant County jail on Thursday with bonds set at $255,000. Some neighborhood residents, still reeling from the horror of the attack on Dorika, are moving away, Harris said. That presents a new challenge for those working to rebuild the community, Harris said.

“We’ve got to start letting people know there are some good things going on in the community,” Harris said. “Dorika, being down and about to die and then getting a new heart and a new life mirror what is going on in this neighborhood.”

Chappell was arrested in Johnson County on Sept. 18 for violating conditions of his bond on drug- and weapons-related charges, according to court documents. He was arrested by Fort Worth police in August on a marijuana charge and spent more than a week in the Tarrant County jail, according to authorities.

This story includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram