Three children were shot in separate incidents in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Two of them died.
If you didn’t hear about it, that may not be your fault. Child victims of gunfire don’t get the attention they should.
You’d think there would be a huge outcry when children are killed or injured by gun violence. Instead, the police commissioner might show up at the scene. Antiviolence activists will hold a rally or a candlelight vigil where people leave teddy bears and balloons. Mayor Jim Kenney will tweet about it.
But nothing is ever done to address gun violence against kids in a way that makes a difference. After each tragic incident we dry our collective tears and move on to the next thing. We say we care about youngsters and acknowledge that they are our future, but illegal guns proliferate on our streets and babies fall asleep with the sound of gunfire in the background. We need to treat gun violence more like the public health crisis it is, especially when children are involved.
A total of nine children have died from gun violence in Philadelphia this year, including two this week. Authorities think 6-year-old Fakeem Hayes was killed accidentally on Sunday by another child inside a house in Upper Holmesburg.
Angelo Walker had been riding his bicycle outside his parents’ home in Overbrook later that night when he was mortally wounded. It happened just after 8 p.m. and was still light outside when shots rang out, striking him and two adult males who survived. Philadelphia police transported him to Lankenau Hospital, where he died several hours later. His parents, siblings, friends, and teammates are devastated that the lighthearted 15-year-old who went by the nickname “Rooskie” is dead.
A total of 23 people were shot last Sunday including Angelo, Fakeem, and an 11-year-old girl who suffered a bullet graze wound to the hip in the Southwest section of the city.
As of this writing, 216 people have been killed in Philadelphia in 2020 — a 29% increase over this time last year. That’s a staggering amount of bloodshed made all the more tragic when children are involved.
It’s not just happening here. Over the holiday weekend, children were shot and killed in Atlanta, Alabama, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco, according to CNN. Most had been doing things like shopping, playing, or riding in cars when gunfire erupted.
“[Angelo] was killed literally right behind his house,” Bill Systma, his football coach, told me Tuesday evening. “Police don’t even think he was the target at all. He was just there.”
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Systma said Angelo’s relatives don’t want people to assume he was into street life, because he wasn’t. They want people to know that he was a jokester and a happy, fun-loving teen.
The coach hopes to have a private, socially distanced event at the school for his teammates on Thursday in Frankford High School’s stadium. The last time Systma saw him was two days before schools were closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus. He had met with Angelo and his mother to talk over his progress and what he needed to do to stay on track.
“Angelo was a dedicated football player. He made all of the practices,” Systma told me. “He was a funny guy in the locker room. He was very vibrant. Very full of life. Just a great kid.”
I hope I never have to write another column about a child who has been shot. The last time I wrote on this subject was in March when I shared a story about a little boy allegedly shot accidentally by a family friend. Luckily, he survived. According to the Trace — a website that tracks gun violence — more than 90% of all child gun deaths take place in America, which is outrageous. What’s it going to take to stop it?