A few feet from where the little boy was caught in the gangbangers’ crossfire, a weathered Miami-Dade Police Department-issued sign had cautioned, “Children At Play.”
Another notice warned, “Closed circuit television,” though residents of the apartment complex told me the CCT system hasn’t worked in years. No video threatened the shooters’ anonymity.
The only honest appraisal of security for kids living thereabouts was the impromptu teddy bear memorial for King Carter. Just 6 years old. A child at play.
On Saturday afternoon, a shootout erupted in the parking lot at the Blue Lake Village apartments. An errant shot killed young King. In northwest Miami-Dade, the definition of wrong place, wrong time has come to be anywhere, anytime, any kid.
“I’m tired anguishing with parents, mothers, sisters....” Alberto Carvalho told the crowd gathered there Sunday afternoon to grieve and rage at yet another mindless death by gunfire.
Carvalho has become a ubiquitous presence in the aftermath of these horrors, Miami’s consoler in chief, arms draped around the shoulders of despairing parents. Back in 2008, the Miami-Dade schools superintendent decided he would not allow shootings of his students to pass unremarked. But, gracious, it has become too much. More than 60 Miami-Dade students shot in the past 12 months. Twenty-four with fatal wounds. Some of them, like King Carter, hardly more than babies. “Coffins should not be that small,” Carvalho pleaded. “Our children should be guaranteed second grade, at least.”
This time the hurt was personal. Carvalho knew the family. King’s aunt Tawana Akins was a regional teacher of the year in 2015 and a friend. He was plainly stricken. His usual diplomatic cadence gave way to grief, anger, then outright contempt for civic leaders who’ve allowed these streets to become the purview of gun thugs. He was particularly incensed that lawmakers in Tallahassee have failed to act on legislation that would protect confidential informants who police say have become too afraid to testify against the city’s gangsters. “If this killing was elsewhere, in someone else’s Zip code, I guarantee this bill would be law right now.”
The superintendent’s voice rose as he described elected leaders’ failures to increase community policing or to provide safe, supervised parks where kids in these stricken neighborhoods could find refuge. “Do not be pathetic,” he said. “Do not use politics to punish these children.”
Other leaders added similar sentiments. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle likened these shootings to terrorism. But it was rapper, coach and community leader Luther Campbell, talking straight and street, whose frustration matched Carvalho’s. “Man up,” he howled at shooting witnesses who refuse to break the so-called code of silence.
Campbell and Carvalho together created a kind of angry fusion — two unlikely allies roaring on behalf of the victims in Miami-Dade’s epidemic of gun violence.
“This is chipping away at the soul of our community, one child at a time,” Carvalho shouted at the uncaring world away from the inner city. “It shouldn’t be a crime to be a child in Miami.”