For two days in a row, elected officials, law enforcement and community activists made a public plea for the Fourth of July: No stray bullets.
“We do not need more children killed by stray bullets,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said Thursday at the One Bullet Kills The Party gathering at the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park.
The park, located at Northwest 62nd Street and Northwest 12th Avenue, was named after Sherdavia, a 9-year-old killed by a stray bullet while she played outside of her Liberty City home in 2006.
The day before, Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes had a challenge for the community.
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“Let’s stop and think for a moment how your celebration of firing a gun can turn into another family’s tragedy,” he said Wednesday at the 17th annual No More Stray Bullets gathering aimed at preventing celebratory gunfire. “I don’t see that as a celebration. Let’s think about our neighbors.”
Law enforcement agencies from across the county, politicians and community leaders came together to urge people to refrain from shooting into the air as a holiday activity.
“Have fun, enjoy the Fourth of July, enjoy your family, your friends, have fellowship,” said Florida House Rep. Cynthia A. Stafford, who represents Opa-locka and its surrounding area. “Don’t do it in a dangerous way. Bullets don’t have eyes.”
Rev. Jerome Starling, an associate minister at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church and executive director of the Rickia Isaac Foundation, has been holding annual public pleas since his 5-year-old niece Rickia was struck and killed by a stray bullet to the forehead in 1997 as she was walking home from a Miami parade honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Today we are asking the community to knock on people’s doors, talk to your loved ones, talk to your mom and dad, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews and tell them just don’t fire,” he said. “Too many lives have been lost through senseless gunfire.”
New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July have been marred in the past by stray bullets.
Politicians also joined the call.
“Even though it’s innocuous, even though people may not intend it, that which goes up comes down with the force that it goes up,” Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. “For anyone out there that is considering shooting a gun into the air, it’s reckless, it’s dangerous and can have chilling effects, including the loss of a life.”
Police chiefs across the county had a stern message for the community: They will be out in force trying to cut down on gun violence.
“We don’t want to see something positive turn into something negative,” said Miami Gardens Interim Chief Antonio G. Brooklen. “We are out here on a mission to let the community know that we will be enforcing all of the rules regarding no stray bullets and gunfire and weapons that are used inappropriately.”
He added: “This is a day for us to celebrate with our families. Let’s not turn this holiday into a tragic day.”
Miami Herald news partner CBS4 contributed to this report.
Rickia Isaac Foundation Second Annual Essay Contest
Theme: “Let’s Celebrate Life! No More Stray Bullets”
Rules: Contest is open to students from 5 to 21. Length of essay depends on age: 200 word maximum for 5- to 8-years-old; 400 word maximum for 9- to 13-years-old; 600 word maximum for 14- to 17-years-old and 800 word maximum for 18- to 21-years-old.
Prizes: For ages 5-8, first place is $125, second place is $75 and third place is $50; for ages 9-13, first place is $250, second place is $125 and third place is $75; for ages 14-17 first place is $500, second place is $250 and third place is $125; and for ages 18-21, first place is $1,000, second place is $500 and third place is $250.
Deadline: Typed essays are due by Sept. 5.
To submit an essay or for information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call 786-530-2100.