In Depth

Sherdavia Jenkins remembered 10 years after her death

Sherrone Lisa Jenkins could not will herself to make it. As preachers, parents and children gathered in the park named after her daughter, Jenkins grieved at home.

It has been 10 years since Sherdavia Jenkins was killed by a stray bullet as she played on her doorstep — one year longer than she got to live. Even now, it still hurts.

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The community marked the grim anniversary of Sherdavia’s death on Friday. At 2:46 p.m., the moment she was killed, children released dozens of white balloons into a bright summer sky. They remembered the little girl who dreamed of becoming a graphic designer and was at the top of her third-grade class.

“I remember her this day because one part of me was ruthlessly taken,” said Sherdavia’s father, David Jenkins. “It’s been a domino effect ever since.”

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Jenkins doesn’t work any more. He says he is depressed and traumatized and has been open with his struggle with alcohol. He and Sherrone divorced just before their daughter died.

Sherdavia would have been 19 this year. Instead of sending her off to college, her family clings to the image of a pigtailed girl in a polka-dot dress. It adorns the wall of the Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park, a patch of trimmed grass and flowering trees right across the street from the public housing complex where she was gunned down in Liberty City.

“I don’t want to be here. I should be at home helping Sherdavia get ready for her junior year of college,” said her grandmother Shirley Williams.

In the years since her death, Sherdavia’s friends, family and outraged strangers have marched against gun violence and demanded safer streets. But on Friday, the parents of 6-year-old King Carter, who died in February in the crosshairs of a teenage shootout, reminded everyone of the work to be done. Since Jenkins died, more than 300 more children have been killed in Miami-Dade.

Separated by a decade but united in the same pain, both fathers — David Jenkins and Santonio Carter — say stronger families are part of what’s needed to end the bloodshed. And both have vowed to make their child’s death a catalyst for change.

“My son, in his six years of living, helped his father discover his purpose,” Carter said. “All we gotta do is stand in the paint and be here for these other kids. Save our kings and save our queens. Let’s not lead them astray.”

Carter, a local rapper, launched into a verse about losing his only son. As he reminded everyone of King’s tender age, Carter held his hand out just below his hip, marking how tall his son stood.

It was the worst feeling ever/’cause I heard every shot/Then I found my son dead before the medics and the cops,” he rhymed.

Ervens Ford, now a major in charge of the area including Liberty City, worked Sherdavia’s case. He stood in the shade of a tree in the park that bears her name and recalled the day he showed up on the scene.

“We’ve had innocent victims of stray bullets before,” he remembered. But this time was different. “As word was spreading around, people were like in a daze.”

Ford said he hopes the park serves not just as a reminder of Sherdavia’s life, but also the consequences that come with picking up a gun. Sherdavia’s killer is serving 50 years in prison.

“He should also serve as a reminder,” Ford said.

To end the commemoration, Rev. Anthony Tate of New Resurrection Church gathered a crowd of children who were brought by a local youth group. They sat in the grass shoulder to shoulder.

Sherdavia and King’s light may have been snubbed out, Tate told them — but it was up to them, kids their same age, to carry it on.

David Jenkins and Santonio Carter stood near each other in front of the group. Together they sang “This little light of mine” and a smile broke out on each man’s face.

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga