In the United States, children are increasingly being killed in shootings: who were and what the victims dreamed about
13-year-old Amaria Jones was in the living room of her home on the West Side of Chicago showing her mom a new Tik Tok dance when a stray bullet went through the front window, pierced the girl's neck and stuck on the TV. On the street, random bullets also injured boys 15 and 16 years old, sitting on the porch of the house. Amaria was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead, writes USA Today.
“Imagine that you have a 13-year-old sister who hasn't even started living yet, and you have to dress her for a memorial service. You have to choose clothes for her, style her hair, choose a coffin. You have to choose the photos, says Mercedes Jones, 27. “I just don't want to come to terms with reality. My sister is gone. ”
Amaria's heartbreaking death was one of many during the bloody summer season across the country. Skirmishes have escalated in several cities amid social and economic turmoil caused by the public health crisis and the racial justice movement - and children are increasingly caught in the crossfire.
The sister said that Amaria dreamed of becoming a lawyer: "She would fight for what she thinks is right."
Children die in the streets
Amaria was one of 12 minors shot to death in Chicago last month - many of them playing in the street, driving or sitting on the couch - and many more were injured.
Three-year-old Mechi James was killed two hours earlier than Amaria, about a mile from her home. He was sitting in the back seat of his father's car on the way home from the hairdresser. That weekend, 104 people were shot dead in Chicago, 15 of them fatally, including three more minors. Dozens of others were shot and killed over the next weekend.
“Children are dying on the streets for the fourth weekend in a row,” said Pastor Marshall Hatch, who attended several funerals. “There is something tragically wrong in what we do and what we value. People are depressed by it - that's what it led to. "
Chicago's deadliest weekend came in late May amid protests and robberies, in which 85 people were shot and killed, 24 of them killed.
Overall crime rates - including violent crimes - are low in the US, but homicide rates are rising this year in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, D.C., Philadelphia, Houston, Charlotte, North Carolina, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Kansas City (Missouri).
July 13, when the country's largest city for the first time in several months noted the absence of deaths from COVID-19 for 24 hours, New York honored with a minute of silence the one-year-old Davell Gardner Jr., who was mortally wounded in the stomach, sitting in a stroller on a picnic in Brooklyn the day before in the evening.
"You can never look away from something like that and treat it callous," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference. "We can never give up on our children."
According to police, as of July 5, the number of shootings increased by 53% compared with the same period last year in New York.
In Atlanta, where 8-year-old Seoria Turner was fatally injured on Independence Day, gunfire cases are up 23% from last year, police said.
In Chicago, according to police, cases of shooting increased by 46% compared with the same period last year.
"Davon won't be there"
In Washington, DC, where the killing of 11-year-old Dawon McNeill shocked the entire city, the number of killings increased by 24% compared to the same period last year, and the number of attacks with dangerous weapons increased by 1%, according to police. The boy was shot while getting out of his mother's car. At this time, the two groups fired at each other.
“Daevon was in the middle and was shot,” said the boy's grandfather, John Ayala. - There are times when you want to break. But I'm holding on because I have to. "
According to Ayala, Daewon was a star footballer. He started playing when he was 6 years old. The boy dreamed of playing in the NHL and buying a big house for his mother.
“At a young age, he learned how to be a role model,” Ayala said.
Ayala and his wife planned to take Davon and the other grandchildren on a yearly trip to Orlando that fateful weekend, but canceled the trip due to the pandemic.
“Our 8-year-old granddaughter cried, saying that the next time we went on a trip, Davon would not be there,” Ayala said.
The rise in gun violence is the result of three main factors: the typical spike in summer shooting, the coronavirus pandemic, and nationwide social unrest, researchers say.
Violence predominantly affects African American and Latino children and adolescents. About 3000 children and adolescents receive gunshot wounds every year, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control's web system. Black children and adolescents, in particular, are 14 times more likely than their white counterparts to die in gun homicide, the researchers said.
“Stress is everywhere now. People stay at home. People don't work. Social unrest is taking place. All of this can lead to a worsening epidemic problem, and that is what happens with violence, ”said Charlie Ransford, director of science and policy at Cure Violence, a Chicago-based nonprofit group that fights gun violence. "It's a contagious problem."
Demetris Whately, a South Side Chicago activist with CureViolence, says the violence has affected his family as well. His 14-year-old niece received gunshot wounds to the arm and thigh while standing at the bus stop with friends. Whateley's 22-year-old nephew was wounded in both arms with broken bones.
Waitley believes that the closure of parks, beaches, bars and clubs due to the pandemic forces people to spend more time outdoors, in a quarter where it is easier to find and identify targets for shelling.
"It's about social inequality"
The pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence, such as income inequality, said Hatch, a West Side pastor. Violence is “the despair and depravity that comes with the fact that people are less valued, do not invest in them”.
Data analysis showed that in Chicago and across the country, the coronavirus disproportionately affected low-income communities and minorities. Many of those same black and brown communities have been massively out of work due to the economic fallout from the outbreak.
Chicago police superintendent David Brown said high poverty levels in areas in the south and west of the city contribute to violence.
“It's about a lack of opportunity. This is not a police problem. It's about social inequality, ”he said.
The researchers say the rise in the disease may have to do with increased arms purchases. A study from the University of California-Davis found that gun violence in the United States has increased significantly, linked to increased purchases of firearms during the pandemic.
More than 2 million firearms were purchased between March and May, according to the study, up 64,3% more than expected. In May, the level of interpersonal violence with the use of firearms increased significantly: 17% more injuries than expected. Researchers estimated an increase of 776 injuries compared to what would be expected if there were no increase in purchases: it is 7,8% more over a three-month period.
Christopher Herrmann, a former NYC police officer and assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said anti-police sentiment across the country is also fueling growth.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, the police were called heroes because they were frontline workers. After the Floyd incident, the police quickly went from heroes to villains, ”said Herrmann.
This encourages police officers to take a more "non-confrontational approach," he said, fostering a frame of mind: "I'm not going to do any proactive work because I'm more concerned about the risk of getting into trouble or the first lines of news."
"Everything has a limit"
On Saturday, July 18, dozens of youths marched through several blocks on the south side of Chicago to demand more resources to combat the use of weapons. One protester held a sign with photographs of young people killed as a result of the use of weapons, and the words: “There is a limit to everything. I'm tired of seeing my friends in coffins and urns. "
Jones has a hard time getting out of bed every day. She did not return to work after the murder of her sister. She is trying to raise her 7-year-old son in the same area where her sister was fatally injured.
“I don’t know what to say to my 7-year-old who wants answers to things he doesn’t even know about,” she said.
According to Jones, Amaria has always wanted a Pandora charm bracelet. Jones bought this bracelet for her funeral.
“When her birthday or Christmas comes, I want to fill this bracelet to the end and place it somewhere in her memory. Everything she missed, ”Jones said. “I want her to know that we are still proud of her and we will still celebrate her life. On the days when she would have to graduate from high school or college, I'll be there and I'll attach the pendant to her bracelet. Just to let her know. "
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