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Woman’s effort to shield baby from gunfire is a testament to a mother’s love | Jenice Armstrong

In a city filled with grisly shootings, this one stands out because of how Dawn Boyd tried to protect her baby as bullets hailed down around her.

Dawn "Sissy" Boyd, 22, died trying to protect her baby during a drive-by shooting in West Philly last week.
Dawn "Sissy" Boyd, 22, died trying to protect her baby during a drive-by shooting in West Philly last week.Read moreNone

Two babies each less than a year old, but they've already survived their first drive-by shooting.

It happened a week ago. Their mothers — Alize Griffin and Dawn Boyd — had been lounging on some steps with their toddlers Friday evening outside a friend's rowhouse on the 5100 block of Haverford in West Philly. Besties, they had been engaging in a little of their usual trash talk. Griffin had just snapped on Boyd  — whom she calls Sissy  —  saying, "I will smack you!"

The friends laughed so hard that neither woman noticed when a car pulled up close to where they were sitting and slowed. A male bystander shouted, "Get down!" just as the bullets started flying.

Griffin felt a searing pain in her right hip. She had been hit. As she reached for her son, Griffin glanced over her shoulder and saw a wounded Boyd cradling her nearly 1-year-old daughter,  Sameya,  as she dragged herself up the stairs and toward the house.

It would be her final act of love.

Boyd, who had been hit multiple times, died the next afternoon at 3:13 at Penn Presbyterian Hospital surrounded by relatives and friends who had become her second family. She had just turned 22.

"I held her hand until they turned the machine off," recalled Griffin, 21, as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Two others also were struck by gunfire — Kenyon Allford,  24,  of the 1800 block of East Atlantic Street, who was fatally wounded, and an unidentified man who was shot in the arm. Police Capt. John Ryan, commander of the Homicide Division, on Thursday said detectives were still working the case. They don't have a motive or a suspect, and are asking anyone with information to come forward.

In a city filled with grisly shootings, this one stands out. Partly because it was a quadruple shooting but also because of how Boyd managed to summon the strength to protect her baby from the hail of bullets. Her final act really is a moving testament to the depth of a mother's love. Her baby wasn't injured.

Griffin's son, Azim Johnson, will celebrate his first birthday on Oct. 13, the day of  Boyd's funeral.  Hopefully, he'll have no lingering memory of that awful night. His mother's physical wounds are healing, even though doctors opted not to remove the bullet lodged deep in Griffin's hip. She walks with a limp now and is in pain but is lucky to be alive. Healing emotionally is another matter.

As we chatted in the waning afternoon sun, my heart ached for those young friends almost as much as it did for Boyd, who had challenges in the past but by all accounts had settled down after becoming a mother. The friends – Quadiyah Burton, Tye'Chelle Hall, and Griffin laughed as they recalled fun times they had shared with Boyd – going to parties,  drinking too much, and being silly. After having a baby, Boyd stopped going out as much but still enjoyed a good laugh with her girlfriends.

Lately, they haven't been sleeping well. They're still in shock over the loss of a member of their tight-knit sister circle.

Burton, 23, will have a baby soon.  She'll name her Dawn, after Boyd.