More And More Children Fall Victim As Street Shootings Spike In Chicago | KUOW News and Information

More And More Children Fall Victim As Street Shootings Spike In Chicago

Aug 1, 2016
Originally published on August 1, 2016 3:22 pm

Tacarra Morgan lives in a big two-story, A-frame house that sits next to an empty, grassy corner lot on Chicago's South Side.

On a sunny afternoon earlier in July, gunfire broke out while the 6-year-old sat on the porch with her grandmother and her mother, Carolyn Morris.

"All l I know, bullets starting coming from that way. I didn't see who was shooting," Morris says. "I didn't see anything and my daughter is so strong, I didn't even know she was shot."

They all ran in the house; all Tacarra said was that her stomach hurt, her mother recalls.

"I raised her shirt," says Morris, "her stomach was gushing out nothing but her intestines."

This year, shootings have been on the rise in several cities across the country; at least 370 children in the United States — 12 years old or younger — have been harmed or killed by gunfire so far this year, according to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, which collects gun violence data daily.

Accidents like kids playing with guns, and domestic disputes, often cause the injury and deaths of young children.

But in Chicago this summer, it's a different worry. Although many shell-shocked neighborhoods on the city's South and West sides typically expect an increase during the summer, a spike in street shootings in the city — more than 2,000 so far this year — has alarmed residents and made gun violence even more of a threat for youngsters.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 15 children in the city, age 12 and under, have been wounded unintentionally by bullets, says Andrew Holmes, a community activist in Chicago, says.

He rattles off the incidents: They started Feb. 11, when a young child was shot at 3700 West Chicago. Two days later, a 2-year-old was shot at West 64th. The list of incidents in which gunfire harmed young children goes on.

Parents: What To Say, How To Protect Children

The day after Tacarra Morgan was injured, Chicago police set up folding chairs in the intersection not far from the little girl's house, and residents gather for the "Operation Wake-up" police and community rally.

On a table, there are brochures and sign-up sheets for anyone interested in organizing block clubs or mentoring.

Police coordinator Glenn Brooks, microphone in hand, speaks first.

"What is the most important thing to do today?" he asks.

Those who gathered for the meeting shout in approval as Brooks says the answer is to sign up and get organized.

"If we don't get organized," says Brooks, "there is another child that will get shot."

Raymond Lopez, a Chicago alderman, echoes the plea for residents to get involved.

"When I came here the other day, 44 bullets laid on this street," Lopez said. "This is an atrocity that is repeated daily in our communities and it has to stop."

Aleta Clark, a 26-year-old community activist, agrees. Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan "Hugs not slugs," Clark brought her two children and several other kids from the neighborhood to make them aware of what they're up against.

Clark says she want them to see things outside their comfort zone — to see that bad things are happening to kids like them.

"That's why I work so hard to keep them safe, to keep them happy," she says. "So this type of thing don't happen to them."

Clark also voiced her frustration at what she considers a code of silence over the shootings that occur in the neighborhood.

"If it was a cop that did it, this whole neighborhood would be a bunch of angry African-Americans," she then asks the crowd, "When are we gonna start holding our own people accountable?"

Another parent, Keith Kysel, says he's had the hard conversation with his 7-year-old daughter Harmony.

"I have to tell her sometimes at the park, 'It's time to go,' because we see certain people in the park that might become targets, and we don't want to be in the way," he says, then telling his daughter, "We just have to be careful."

Harmony, however, just wants to be a kid.

"I should be able to go outside and ride my bike to the park and do activities," she says. "Not be scared and go back into the house because somebody is doing something bad."

Keith Kysel says he and other parents are just trying to prevent what they hope is not becoming a "new normal" for young children in their neighborhood.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So far this year, nearly 370 children in the United States who are 12 years old or younger have been harmed or killed by gunfire. This is according to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, which collects gun violence data daily. Its research shows that throughout the country, accidents like kids playing with guns and also domestic disputes often cause the injury and deaths of young children.

But this summer in Chicago, it's been a different worry. A spike in street shootings has made gun violence even more of a threat to youngsters. Here's NPR's Cheryl Corley.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: On the 6,000 block of South Paulina in Chicago, there's an empty grassy lot on one corner. Next to it, a big two-story, A-frame house similar to many on the street. That's where 6-year-old Tacarra Morgan lives. Earlier in July during a sunny afternoon, gunfire broke out while she sat on the porch with her grandmother and her mother Carolyn Morris.

CAROLYN MORRIS: All I know, bullets coming from that way. I didn't see who was shooting. I didn't see anything. And my daughter's so strong, I didn't even know she was shot. Me, her and my mom ran in the house. All she said was my stomach hurts. I raised her shirt. I checked her anyway. Her stomach was gushing out nothing but her intestines.

CORLEY: This year, there's been a rise in shootings in several cities across the country. And in the summer, shell shocked neighborhoods like this one on Chicago's South Side typically expect an increase. But the numbers, more than 2,000 shootings so far in Chicago, have alarmed residents, especially when young children are being wounded.

Community activist Andrew Holmes says since the beginning of the year, at least 15 children age 12 and under have been wounded unintentionally by bullets.

ANDREW HOLMES: Started February the 11, 3,700 West Chicago, young child shot. February the 13, 3,100 West 64th Street, a 2-year-old shot. February the 20...

CORLEY: It's a situation that's left parents wondering what to say to their children and how to protect them.

HOLMES: So first, I want to welcome you to what we call an Operation: Wake Up!

CORLEY: The day after Tacarra Morgan was injured, Chicago police set up folding chairs in the intersection not far from the little girl's house and residents gathered for the Operation: Wake Up! police and community rally. On a table, brochures and sign-up sheets for anyone interested in organizing block clubs or mentoring. Police coordinator Glenn Brooks says it's time for community action.

GLENN BROOKS: What is the most important thing here today? To sign up and to get organized. If we don't get organized, there is another child that will get shot.

CORLEY: Chicago Alderman Raymond Lopez echoed the plea for residents to get involved.

RAYMOND LOPEZ: When I came here the other day, 44 bullets lied on this street. This is an atrocity that is repeated daily in our communities. And it has to stop.

CORLEY: Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan hugs not slugs, 26-year-old community activist Aleta Clark agrees. She brought her two children and several other kids from the neighborhood to make them aware of what they're up against.

ALETA CLARK: I want them to see things outside of y'all comfort zone is happening, bad things, to kids like you. That's why I work so hard to keep them safe, to keep them happy, so this type of thing doesn't happen to them.

CORLEY: And Clark told those gathered at the rally she's frustrated by the code of silence when it comes to the shootings in their own neighborhood.

CLARK: But if it was a cop that did it, this whole neighborhood would be a bunch of angry African-Americans. But when are we going to start holding our own people accountable?

CORLEY: Another parent, Keith Kysel, says he's had the hard conversation with his 7-year-old daughter Harmony.

KEITH KYSEL: I have to tell her sometimes at the park, it's time to go 'cause we see certain people in the park that might become targets. And we don't want to be in the way. We just have to be careful.

CORLEY: But Harmony just wants to be a kid.

HARMONY KYSEL: I should be able to go outside, ride my bike to the park and do activities, not be scared, go back in my house because somebody's doing something bad.

CORLEY: Keith Kysel says he and other parents are just trying to prevent what they hope is not becoming a new normal for young children in their neighborhood. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

GREENE: And we should add in Chicago, three police officers were stripped of their police powers and put on administrative duty over the weekend. This comes after an 18-year-old was killed. The city's police superintendent Eddie Johnson made this decision after determining that the officers violated policy when they fired their weapons.

The 18-year-old African-American man who was killed, Paul O'Neal, was suspected of stealing a car. He was involved in a car chase with police and later, a foot chase. Autopsy results say he died from a gunshot wound to the back. This, of course, comes with police departments across this country facing strong pressure to be more transparent about their use of force. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.