Pictured: Half Mile Home (left to right: Todd Burton, Terence Burton, and Darryl Brownlee)

Akron‘s Half Mile Home hit Billboard’s Top 40 gospel charts last month with the release of its latest single, This Far.

The song was inspired by the experience of group member Todd Burton after one of his sons survived being shot in the head last year in Goodyear Heights.

On Saturday, the gospel group will sing that hit at the funeral for another of Burton’s sons who was shot and killed last weekend just a few blocks away from where his other son was shot and survived.

“I’m going to be driven by this,” Burton said during an interview Wednesday.

The gospel musician — whose group also includes his brother, Terence Burton and friend Darryl Brownlee — said he’s talked to people across the country who have lost people they love to gun violence.

“Now I’ve been there. God spared me one with my first son,” Burton said. “Now he’s given me the chance to spare other people. I just pray music can be a catalyst.”

Burton and his wife were in Chicago Sunday celebrating his 43rd birthday when a family friend called and said someone had found the body of his 21-year-old son, Deandre “Dre” Andrus.

“We were in a taxi cab and my wife started screaming and the driver couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Burton recalled. “It was the longest drive back from Chicago, ever.”

Police haven’t made an arrest in Dre’s slaying, but suspect he and another man were shot in an apartment parking lot Saturday night. Someone drove the other man to a hospital. Dre wasn’t discovered until the daylight. His body was across the street in a wooded area.

Burton said his son — who had been a standout football player at both Buchtel and Springfield high schools — won a football scholarship to a school in California, but moved home after getting injured and losing his scholarship.

He was working at one of Burton’s appliance stores — Next to New Appliances on Brown Street — to save up money to go back to school, Burton said.

“He was such a good salesman, and so funny,” Burton said.

Dre was the fourth oldest of Burton’s eight children he said.

Treyvon Burton is his fifth eldest. Late last year, Burton said Treyvon walked into gunfire during a fight between a man and a woman. A doctor told the Burton family that it was a miracle case.

“He’s said he’d never been able to tell someone who was shot in the head they were going to live, but he could say that right away,” Burton recalled.

Treyvon’s shooting tested his faith, Burton said. And Dre’s death has tested it again.

“But we’ve got to stop this senseless shooting, this senseless violence,” said Burton, who says his gospel group sings “music with a mission to a better motive.”

“We’ve got something people can hold onto … as opposed to rap that tells you it’s OK to pull out a gun and shoot the guy across the street,” he said.

Burton said he plans to use his national platform to spread a two-prong message: Accept that God is in control, but that God also gives people choices and decisions they make can either lengthen or shorten their lives.

“Why do you want to get a gun instead of getting a good job?,” Burton asked.

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SOURCE: Akron Beacon Journal – Amanda Garrett