gun violence

Rowan Moore Gerety

As a high school freshman, Aaron Willis was paralyzed from the waist down in a drive-by shooting while riding his bike in Wynwood. Wednesday, Willis graduated from Booker T Washington High School on the honor roll.

 

Willis wore a look of sheer determination as he walked across the stage to claim his diploma, walking with the aid of crutches and robotic leg supports. The friends and classmates who filled the auditorium lost it, their screams gradually coalescing into chants of “Aaron, Aaron.”

 

Nadege Green / WLRN

The Blue Lake Village Apartments are painted beige and green. Locals call them the “Colors.”

Around the back, there’s a playground with faded yellow slides, but kids can’t get in.

The green gate is welded shut.

“They had problems on the playground with not the kids but other folks coming out and hanging around and doing their dirt over here pretty much,” said Miami-Dade police officer Antonio Moore.

Nadege Green / WLRN

Kalaila Rollins was still wearing her blue school uniform and backpack as she led a protest through the Liberty Square housing project in Liberty City.

“We demand, justice. We demand justice,” she chanted.

Kalaila is 11-years old. A dozen of her mostly elementary school-age friends and some adults joined in her chants.

The injustice she is rallying against is the inability to play outside without the fear of getting shot.

Screengrab King Carter Funeral Livestream / WLRN

When children and teenagers die, they’re remembered for who they were--kids who loved cartoons, school and sports.

In the past decade, more than 300 children and teens have been killed by gun violence in Miami-Dade County.

Terry Wright, owner of the Wright & Young Funeral Home  in North Miami-Dade, planned the funerals for some of  those children whose lives were cut short by senseless acts of violence.

And even though his business is death, Wright struggles with the homegoing services for  kids.

Miami Dade College (Live stream)

Miami has experienced a spike in shootings of and by young people in the opening months of 2016. But the organizers of Wednesday’s “Goals NOT Guns” summit, planned for weeks and held in Little Havana,  could not have known just how timely it would be.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

On Wednesday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez unveiled a new plan he hopes will prevent shooting deaths of children.

More than 100 children in the county have been killed by gun violence over past three years.

Nadege Green / WLRN

Sherdavia Jenkins was 9 years old when she was killed in the Liberty Square housing projects on July 1, 2006.

She was on her front porch when a stray bullet  struck the little girl who loved video games.

This week, she would have turned 19 years old. Her family and community member gathered to commemorate her birthday at a park across the street from the housing projects where she was killed.

The park is named for her: Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park.

Since Sherdavia's death 10-years ago, an average of 30 children a year have been killed in  Miami-Dade County.

Nadege Green / WLRN

Conversations about gun violence and how it affects young people in Miami-Dade are getting more urgent—especially after the shooting death of 6-year old King Carter last month.

Earlier this week, a room full of educators, parents, pastors and community leaders gathered in Liberty City at a catering hall. They were there at the request of Tawana Akins, an elementary school teacher who knows personally the toll these killings can have. 

Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Deandre Benjamin was hanging out with friends in the courtyard of an apartment building in Overtown, Miami. Around 6 p.m. someone in a black car drove up and sprayed the area with bullets.

Benjamin was 17 at the time. His friend Julian Bryant—“Juju”—was also shot. Juju was standing right next to Benjamin and later died. Juju was 17.

Deandre Benjamin, who goes by his artist name Jus Dre, spoke about what happened the night of the shooting.

    

An edited excerpt of the conversation with Benjamin:

Nadege Green / WLRN

Joewaun Coles was a freshman at Miami Northwestern High in Liberty City. Everyone called him “Popcorn.” 

Nadege Green / WLRN

WLRN is looking at the impact of children and teens killed by guns in Miami-Dade County through the voices of some of the people who are most affected.

Randall Robinson was a 17-year-old student at Miami Northwestern High School.  

He was shot multiple times near his home in Little Haiti last year—one of more than 100 teenagers and children who’ve been killed by guns in Miami-Dade County over the last 3 years.

Nadege Green / WLRN

WLRN is looking at the impact of children and teens killed by guns in Miami-Dade County through the voices of some of the people who are most affected.

Tawana Akins is a fourth grade teacher at Holmes Elementary School in Miami-Dade. She’s been teaching for 13 years.

As a teacher and in her own personal life, Akins has attended and planned funerals for school-aged children killed by gunfire in Miami-Dade County. 

Marsha Halper / Miami Herald

As shootings of children dominate the headlines in Miami-Dade County, communities and police are searching for answers on how to solve and prevent these crimes.

Last weekend, 6-year-old King Carter was killed when he was caught in crossfire in the Blue Lake Village.

Carle Juste / Miami Herald

“My son name is Herbert Henderson. He was murdered on Nov. 7, 2012,” says Mary Henderson.

“My son was killed Sept. 10, 2015,"  says Neikole Hunt, her pain, still fresh, makes her voice crack. "His name is Randall Robinson.”

These moms belong to a group that calls itself Miami-Dade Parents of Murdered Kids.

They meet every month in the new North District county police station and they all share the same tragic story: They lost their children to gun violence.

The parents are focused on making changes to a system they say is broken.

Bar Jack / Flickr

Acknowledging "momentum" behind a proposal that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry guns, the Florida Police Chiefs Association said Thursday its board of directors had voted to back the controversial measure --- as long as changes designed to protect law-enforcement officers are included.

A spokeswoman confirmed that the police chiefs' group had contacted the sponsors of the proposal (SB 300/HB 163), Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and his son, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who both say they're on board with the changes.

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