Sadly, 2017 is closing out with a barrage of bullets that has killed Miami-Dade teens and a toddler and wounded several others still not old enough to vote.
The deadly combination of wayward teens, easy access to guns that they should not have and residents’ fear of telling what they might know is a triple curse we just can’t shake. But we can’t give up.
The first part of the year had been relatively free of young gun violence victims, compared to previous years when an average of more than 30 teens and children were lost to gunfire between 2006 and 2015 in Miami-Dade, according to a Miami Herald investigation.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez, noted the December bloodshed in a tweet: “The end of the year is being marred by gun violence. Together we can do something about it and make a difference. #SeesomethingSaysomething #GunBounty if you know someone illegally possessing a gun, contact @MDCrimeStoppers 1 Arrest + 1 gun = $1000/no questions asked,” he said.
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A helpful start, and we need to see more.
The deaths of children and teens always generate outrage. People hold candlelight vigils at the site of the killings. Elected leaders and church elders call for unity in ending the scourge. Editorials like this one appeal for the violence to stop.
But we need to see more: Committed declarations from elected officials countywide that they will work intimately with the afflicted communities; that they will implement best practices to stem violence.
We need to hear more from both the county and Miami mayors, where gun violence is taking a massive toll in a limited number of neighborhoods.
The truth is the tragic killing of kids on the streets of Miami-Dade has not taken a holiday in years.
This year, the noticeable rash of killings began Dec. 15, when 2-year-old Carnell Williams-Thomas was shot and killed while riding his new scooter in the courtyard of his family’s housing complex in Goulds. A $37,000 reward is being offered for the capture of the shooter, who likely didn’t mean to hit a toddler, but didn’t care that Carnell was in the way.
Two hours later, a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot at a mobile home park in Northwest Miami-Dade.
A week later, a 16-year-old boy died after being shot several times while he was waiting in the passenger seat of a car at a Citgo service station on Northwest 103rd Street and 12th Avenue.
A 15-year-old girl was wounded in another incident, but survived.
Then Tuesday night, a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old were among five people wounded when two groups of people exchanged gunfire. Miami-Dade police said the victims were out in front of a house near Northwest 17th Avenue and 86th Terrace when gunfire erupted.
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also expressed his outrage on Twitter.
“Devastating December. Two teenagers became the latest victims of unacceptable gun violence, along with 3 others Tuesday night. Another mass shooting in our community. We cannot allow these actions to be tolerated in our neighborhoods. Cowardly silence kills. #SpeakUp,” Carvalho tweeted.
We agree — to a point. What looks like cowardice to people to who don’t live day in and day out with gun violence is, in truth, a matter of life and death for residents who want nothing more than to live in peace and safety. Talking to police puts residents in grave danger of being silenced, violently.
When police and prosecutors can protect them, they’ll have even stronger partners in this long-running fight.