Growing Tally of Chicago Children Hit By Gun Violence

3-year Old Davon Quinn injured by gun violence in Chicago.

3-year Old Davon Quinn injured by gun violence in Chicago.

The victims get younger and the numbness becomes more and more familiar as we find a way to remove ourselves from the bitter truth of our environment.

At the worst Chicago has seen the highest number of children 10 years and under fall victim to gun violence in 2016. At press time, a record number of 19 young people, including four toddlers, have succumbed to gunfire.

In 2016, from Feb. 11 to Aug. 14, the number of reported African-American and Latino victims have been splattered across our screens in their school photos or happier moments. Innocent faces that stare back at us — innocence robbed by a single bullet. We watch, we pray, we hope it is not someone or one of our own taken by this vicious cycle of stupidity — afraid that one day we may get that call or knock on our door by the men in blue.

A familiar face that is no stranger to crisis is Chicago community activist Andrew Holmes. For over 30 years, his reputation for assisting families being hit firsthand has him often there at the scene of the crime. This year’s gun shootings have kept him busy. As a crisis responder for the organization Chicago Survivors, one situation may be similar, but it’s never easy.

“I try to locate the mother or father because that’s the head of that household. To get to the mother or father and try to let them know the next steps that has to be taken. Once we’re on the scene or at the hospital, we try to comfort that mother or comfort that father,” he explains. “We’re there with them when they tell them they just lost their loved ones. The next steps are to go to the medical examiner’s office. Let them talk to the hospital or detective to view their loved ones before they take them from the hospital.”

Community Crisis Responder--Andrew Holmes

Community Crisis Responder–Andrew Holmes

He explains to the victim’s family the reason they can’t go underneath crime tape, because they may unknowingly walk away with the evidence. “A shell may be stuck under your shoe or someone may pick up an ID laying there. Something that is related to whoever shot your loved one.” He says this is the reason there will be a detective to put a family member in a car to talk and personally see what they can do to help. Often, he’s noticed victims don’t have any identification on them. When they explain all of the steps, families understand and respect what is going on while they wait on that detective to question them.  

There is an inhuman madness to the heightened violence — no conscience, no emotion. Holmes believes it runs deeper to the dismantling of family. Many shooters are not only gang-affiliated, but living in a single-run household or no household at all.

“Some of this starts at home. If you are going to brand, mold and raise your child — you have to stay on this 24/7. You’re still a parent, no matter how old these children are. If you are a father figure and your child is looking at you as he is growing up and you’re constantly taking this child to the corner while you’re selling drugs, then you’re training him to be the next drug dealer,” said Holmes. “Instead of training him to go to school or when he gets out of school then when it’s your turn to keep him, all he knows is the corner. He’s watching his father or he’s watching his mother. So, here’s the next drug dealer coming up in life.”

Young Victim’s Homecoming

On Sunday, Holmes traveled to the Grand Crossing community to surprise 6-year old Zariah Muhammad with a group of child-animated live characters at her home as she arrived from the hospital.

Last Friday, she was shot in the back of the head outside of her building in the 6800 block of South Calumet playing with water balloons with other children. The shooter walked up to her uncle fatally shooting him and carelessly hitting Muhammad.

6-year old Zariah and her mother Gloria return from hospital after being released from a gun shot wound to her skill.

6-year old Zariah and her mother Gloria return from hospital after being released from a gun shot wound to her skill.

The child was rushed to Comer Children’s hospital where she survived her gunshot wound. Zariah’s mother, Gloria, is still in shock over the incident. The loss of her uncle, 22-year old David McCray fatally shot in the chest and the victim of mistaken identity was playing with his niece, other parents and children outside in front of their home when the shooter approached him.

“We were having a water fight at the time — the children against the parents. It was children from 12 months to 12 years old surrounding them. When the guy was shooting, he didn’t care. All of these babies were outside. My nephew was out there the whole time while the rest of them were able to get upstairs,” she said. “When he shot my baby, the guy stopped. I’m upstairs and it sounded like firecrackers. We sit up on this porch all day, every day. We’ve been living in this neighborhood for over six years now. 

Just when Holmes was welcoming young Zariah home, he was notified of another shooting. This time a similar incident involving a six-year-old girl who was getting out of a car Sunday night in the West Pullman area. Luckily, she stabilized at Roseland Community Hospital before being transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center.

Chicagoans are not oblivious to the gang culture, and since the mid-1960s organizations in the Black community started out as community give-back programs such as the Black Stones and Vice Lords, which later transitioned into heavy illegal activities.

As the drugs flowed throughout the Black community, gangs grew into finely tuned infrastructures modeling themselves in military precision. Many of the gang factions today are using a skeleton blueprint without implementing the code that has separated gang life from neighborhood civilians. It is this very code that was reinforced from shooting at children, seniors and families of rival gangs for decades.

Pictured l-r bottom: Executive Director--Marco Halsey with youth members of Lawndale's G.A.P. program.

Pictured l-r bottom: Executive Director–Marco Halsey with youth members of Lawndale’s G.A.P. program.

A native of the Lawndale community, Marco Halsey and his wife, Anita, started a non-profit organization called G.A.P. (Generating Adolescent Productivity Benevolence Foundation) in February, where twice a week they welcome neighborhood youth at Rev. BT Little Community Center in Lawndale. Halsey is very familiar with the cruel and dangerous West Side streets. As an ex-felon, his life is a living example as he works with young people in understanding the consequences of their actions, but there is hope to correct them.

“A lot of us older guys have failed these younger guys that are out here perpetuating this stuff. We failed them. This has to do with ignorance. If we can give them enough information where they can make proper decisions and make a different choice when faced with a situation when they are angry,” said Halsey. “I sometimes have people who come in to tell their stories — the more they’ve been through to tell these kids. Now, they have something to reference that might be similar to the situation they’re getting ready to get into. This person who ended up doing 15 years for shooting or robbing somebody shares his story with our kids.”

As Halsey encourages more ex-offenders to visit the youth sharing their stories to prevent the next victim or shooter, he and Holmes understands why inactive gang leaders don’t step forward in helping law enforcement bring more calmness to the streets among the younger gang factions.

Holmes believes, “You have a lot that follow by that code. Sisters, brothers, grandmothers, mothers are off-limits but at the same time, most of them want to step out there to put the structure there. They don’t want to get caught in a RICO Act to stand up to say, ‘Look man, we got to put these guns down. If you discharge this weapon, you are going to pay — not your family, just you.’”

As the saying goes, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword.” Some believe that a sense of community vigilance may save more lives if a person discharges that weapon harming innocent bystanders.

In the past, gang chiefs have sat down with previous CPD officials to calm the streets down, only later to be caught or arrested under the RICO Act or go to jail under the federal jurisdiction. 

Bloody Monday

Last Monday was billed as the ‘bloodiest’ Monday with 10 shot and nine people killed across the city in 13 years. Tavon Tanner was part of this deadly statistic as he sat with his mother and sister on their family porch in the 3900 block of West Polk Street. In a drive by, gunfire erupted out spraying their block.

Tavon was hit several times. His twin sister held his hand as they waited for the paramedics.

10-yearold Tavon Tanner shot several times by random gun fire.

10-year-old Tavon Tanner shot several times by random gun fire.

Holmes recalls that same feeling when you’re holding the hand of a victim fighting for their life. “It’s the worst squeeze from a teenager laying there trying to hold on and they are squeezing your hand, but they are squeezing harder than a women giving birth because they are holding on to dear life because they don’t want to die. All you can do is pray and comfort them. That’s a grip you never forget.”

Young Zariah and her 8-year old sister is what kept her mom strong and steady throughout this tragedy. But as a mother of two young girls, her next steps is seeking counseling for them as she finds a way out of the neighborhood. The six-year-old’s father was also victim of gunfire when he was paralyzed in 2009.

As they prepare to bury Zariah’s uncle, Gloria frustrated.  “We’re just trying to raise some monies. I can’t go back to work right now. Now, I need help. The reason why we were staying there is because we didn’t have nowhere to stay. We were trying to get government assistance.”

From the South Side, North Side and to the West Side, the problems are similar as violence rips through our communities and lays doormat on our blocks robbing our children of their innocence and their childhood.

On the West Side, Halsey and his G.A.P. (Generating Adolescent Productivity) volunteers face the reality of saving and losing young children every day, but he believes it can be a simple commitment in a complicated environment.

“If every person spent one hour, somewhere with a kid we’ll have way more people to help turn this situation around.”

Holmes agrees that love is the answer to prevent so many of these crimes, but it’s important for residents to speak up and speak out.

“You have to put love back into the heart. Some people are afraid to talk to the CPD and the detectives fearing retaliation. Don’t fear nobody but yourself and stay strong. You don’t want that knock at your door, saying your loved one is laying there.”

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This list of young gun victims is tragic — they didn’t pick up a gun or choose a lifestyle of crime and hustle. They were either caught in the crossfire of an intended hit, random stupidity or being another casualty of their environment.

February 11, 2016

Male Victim: Under 11 mos.

Injured

February 13, 2016

Male Victim: Under 11 mos.

Injured

February 20,2016

Male Victim: 3-year-old

Injured

March 20, 2016

Male Victim: Under 11 mos.

Killed

March 28, 2016

Female Victim: Under 11 mos.

Injured

April 15, 2016

Female Victim: Under 11 mos.

Injured

April 20, 2016

Male Victim: Under 11 mos.

Injured

June 4, 2016

Darnell Hardeman

Male Victim: 8-year-old

Killed

June 6, 2016

Jaylene Bermeo

Female Victim: 6-year-old

Injured

June 10, 2016

Female Victim: 5-year-old

Injured

June 19, 2016

Devon Quinn

Male Victim: 3-year-old

Injured

June 28, 2016

Kavon Collins

Male Victim: 4-year-old

Injured

July 4, 2016

Taniyah Williams

Female Victim: 5-year-old

Injured

July 6, 2016

Male Victim: 4-year-old

Injured

July 19, 2016

Taccarra Morgan

Taccarra Morgan

Tacarra Morgan

Female Victim: 6-year-old

Injured

August 8, 2016

Tavon Tanner

Male Victim: 10-year-old

Injured

August 12, 2016

Zariah Muhammad

Female Victim: 6-year-old

Injured

August 13, 2016

Male Victim: 10-year old

Injured

August 14, 2016

Female Victim: 6-year old

Injured

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