If it had been Ju Ju gunned down that day, would anybody have cared?
Ju Ju, perhaps a pseudonym, is the name Miami-Dade police assigned the apparent target in the Feb. 20 shooting at the Blue Lake Village apartments in Northwest Miami-Dade County — a crime that sparked a furious reaction, reverberating from the neighborhood down through county government.
Police said three teenagers drove into the parking lot searching for Ju Ju and spotted him lurking near a stairwell. They opened fire. Ju Ju (police are withholding his actual name) returned fire. Police said a bullet grazed the neck of one of his would-be assassins.
All kinds of outrageous elements were associated with the shooting, so brazen a crime, committed out in the open on a Saturday afternoon. Gunplay spawned by something as petty as a taunting exchange on social media. According to police, the three teen aggressors all had rap sheets that included violent crimes. My colleague David Ovalle reported that all three had gone through juvenile court rehab programs, apparently without effect. One was wearing a GPS ankle monitor at the time of the shooting.
But those outrageous elements wouldn’t have amounted to outrage. Not around here. Not even if Ju Ju or one of his assailants had been killed. Except one of their errant bullets struck a tiny passerby, an innocent child on his way to purchase a candy bar.
Six-year-old King Carter was killed. That was too much, even for a community inured to these mindless shootouts that the Herald’s Charles Rabin reported have killed at least 316 children and teens in Miami-Dade in the last decade. But this time, what might have been a commonplace shooting became one of the most infamous Miami-Dade murders in recent memory. After the King Carter killing, neighbors, police, civic leaders, teachers, political leaders and terrified parents gathered at Blue Lake Village and marched in protest, demanding justice.
Maybe such fierce public reaction had something to do with the quick arrests. Most of the shootings in our rougher inner city neighborhoods go unsolved. Last year, Rabin reported that of 646 shootings reported in the city of Miami over the previous four years, only 94 cases had been solved. But within three days of the King Carter shooting, police (albeit from a different jurisdiction) made arrests.
It’s hard to escape the notion that there’s something arbitrary about the civic reaction to youth shootings. “At least until these killings start happening in Coral Gables,” said Tangela Sears, Northwest Miami-Dade’s leading crusader against gun violence.
Sears was among the demonstrators at Blue Lake Village after King Carter’s death. A few days later, she was with mourners for David Goulbarne, 17, who had been gunned down Feb. 24 on Northwest 71st Street by a drive-by gunner. (CBS Miami reported that his shooting evolved out of yet another Facebook feud.)
She said the community reaction was more subdued. As if kid murders, thereabouts, had slipped back into the ordinary.