Top row left to right: Ricky Ferguson Jr., 16, lost his life after being shot at Oveta McKeithen Recreational park in Broward County, Fla. on Dec. 28; Unique Prater, 15, was shot dead on Dec. 31 in Columbus, Ohio; D’asia Garrison, 17, was shot and killed in a hail of bullets on Jan. 1 in East Baltimore. Bottom row left to right: Deanta Dorsey, 16, was shot and killed at the Edmondson Village shopping center in West Baltimore on Jan. 4; Lamar M. Leslie-Allen, 15, was killed on Jan. 21 in Baltimore County, Md.; Brendan Valenzuela, 15, was shot near Crown King Road and 257th Drive in Buckeye, Ariz. on Jan. 22. (Photos Courtesy of Facebook)

By Aria Brent,
AFRO Staff

Deanta Dorsey didn’t know that his life would end during his lunch period on Jan. 4.

Hanging out with four of his friends outside of a fast food restaurant just across from his school, Edmondson–Westside High, the bullets came for him. 

“He was not in the wrong place and it was definitely not the wrong time,” said Ted Sutton, Ph.D., director of Men Against Murder, standing just feet away from where Dorsey lost his life. 

“Because see, some people may think that this is,just part of him, maybe being a bad child. He was doing this, that, and third, this young man was a very good young man.”

Sutton, a native of Baltimore,  said innocent children are dying due to the ignorant actions of others. He told the AFRO of how he used to be involved in criminal activity during his youth, he noted that there is no motive or excuse for many of the deaths that are occurring around the nation.  

Though Dorsey’s case– on the fourth day of the year– is tragic, he was not the first teen to be shot and killed in Baltimore or the last in the month of January alone. 

On the first day of the year D’asia Garrison, was shot and killed in a hail of bullets. On Jan. 21 Lamar M. Leslie-Allen, 15,  was killed in Baltimore County and on Jan. 25, Laron Henderson, a 15-year-old student of Forest Park High School was shot to death. 

The stories of violence repeat themselves over and over. 

Though the jackets, jeans, and tennis shoes may be different, young friends of victims across the nation are left to support each other at caskets that hold the remains of classmates, siblings, significant others and friends. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of Feb.1 there has been a total of 151 youth killed as a result of gun violence.

At a time when elementary aged children are bringing guns to school and purposely shooting their instructor, society is once again questioning “where have we gone wrong?”

Some blame the pandemic and the isolation it caused, while others say the issues facing today’s children are only compounded by an increasing fixation with social media. 

Jay Smith, a middle school counselor in Columbus, Ohio., said he’s noticed that some students in his school have become less communicative and more angry as they’ve returned to in person classes.

Smith said that “being out of school and out of environments that would help teach them how to deal with stress, how to deal with building relationships and how to deal with communication” has negatively affected his students because they have not had experience in “developing personal skill[s].”

 “I think COVID-19 really affected that,” stated Smith, who noted that not only has the severity of the violence increased– but so has the frequency of violent incidents. Smith shared that suspension rates are significantly higher pre-pandemic levels. Spaces for everyday interaction have turned into crime scenes.

More and more, violent crimes are being committed by violent youths. 

Whether it be a mass shooting, or an attack against a targeted individual, the truth is clear: our youth are dying and too many of them are doing the killing. 

On Dec.31, 2022, 15-year-old Unique Prater was shot dead by 14-year-old Michael McCurdy on the East side of Columbus, Ohio. His reason for taking her life is unknown and unfortunately it isn’t the first time Ohio’s capital has dealt with an issue like this. 

Fifteen-year-old Brenden Valenzuela lost his life in Arizona after an argument was settled with gunfire on Jan. 22. 

Josue Lopez-Ortega was caught in gang-related crossfire on Jan. 20 in the Bronx, N.Y.  The 15 year-old died after being shot in the head. All of these murders have taken place in the last 40 days and the victims weren’t even old enough to drive. 

Maryland  State Attorney, Ivan Bates spoke on youth violence during his “Take Back our Streets” town hall meeting. During the meeting Bates assured residents that juvenile crimes will be dealt with on a case by case basis, but stressed that public safety will be prioritized and juveniles will be held accountable for their actions.

“There has to be a balance of holding a juvenile accountable but understanding they are juveniles,” said Bates. “Once again, it will be a case by case basis, there is no one size fits all when you’re dealing with juveniles in the criminal justice system.” 

When asked what should be done about the youth killings, Donna Ashe-Spriggs, maternal grandmother to Deanta Dorsey, said she believes drastic measures must be taken.

“I think you need to shut the city down, just like it was shut down for COVID-19 until the killings stop,” said Ashe-Spriggs “[We need] some kind of shutdown. It’s just terrible how things are going on around here.”