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Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 at Yakima City Hall in Yakima, Wash.

The state needs to be part of an aggressive approach to combating violence in the Yakima Valley, Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday in Yakima.

Inslee visited Yakima to meet in a closed-door session with city and law enforcement officials and families who lost loved ones to gun violence.

He spoke to the media later in the morning to share what he learned from his visit.

“The gun violence here, the epidemic of violence here has been most heartfelt across the state of Washington,” he said during a media conference at City Hall.

So far this year, there have been 23 homicides in Yakima County, with six of them occurring in the city of Yakima.

“I think when you look at the numbers, they’re just shocking when you see 20 already in a community this size,” Inslee said. “You just can’t overstate on a per-capita basis how much violence there’s been in this community.”

Inslee said he met with families who lost loved ones to gun violence, including the family of 16-year-old David Martinez, who was shot to death at the corner of Sliger Road and 18th Street on April 21.

Inslee said his family described him as innocent and not involved in gangs.

According to police reports, he was walking with friends in the early hours of the morning when confronted by two armed men. A fight erupted and Martinez was shot multiple times and died.

Inslee said much of the discussion focused on a need for more prevention and intervention programs. He said he was inspired by some of the ongoing efforts in Yakima to deter youth from gangs, including the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.

Last year, Inslee said, he proposed spending $11 million statewide on programs to combat gang violence, but the Legislature only approved $1 million in the budget.

He promised to make another run at securing additional funding but couldn’t say how much of it would come to Yakima.

“I will be taking these stories back talking to legislators,” he said. “I made proposals last year. Hopefully legislators can find some way to help the Valley.”

Reach Phil Ferolito at pferolito@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @philipferolito