(By Lightspring_Shutterstock)

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.
Special to the AFRO

When a stray bullet struck and killed three year old McKenzie Elliott on August 1, 2014 as she played on her mother’s porch, Baltimore was in shock.  Then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called it a “very, very painful time in our city.”  Terrell Plummer, age 29, pleaded guilty to McKenzie’s murder.

Since then, more of Baltimore’s children have been caught in the crossfires of gang wars, drug disputes and oftentimes childish disagreements but bringing too many early deaths or injury to “little ones.” The news of shooting deaths of children and youth is no longer as surprising as the word of the toddler’s tragedy in Waverly seven years ago.    

Whether racing on city streets, casually walking to get a snack from a corner store or riding along in a car with an adult, children are catching bullets, only sometimes intended for them. 

In one winter week in Baltimore this year, five youths were shot: Kaelin Washington, age 10, was hit in the chest on Saturday, Feb. 27, suffering a punctured lung and fractured rib according to published reports. She survived. A 12-year-old boy was shot in the arm Monday night (March 1) in the Four by Four neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore and taken to a hospital. Northeast District officers were dispatched at 7:25 p.m. to Elmora and St. Cloud Avenues.  The child survived his injury. 

On March 2, a 17-year-old boy was shot on an exit ramp to I-83 as he “squeegeed” car windows.  Gunmen at a very busy site stood over the teenager and shot him in the legs, which resulted in non life threatening injuries. 

“We cannot accept this,” Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference on March 5. “We have to understand that these are children, no matter what was said or what was done. They’re children, and children have to be treated differently than adults, especially when you’re talking about the life or shooting or harming a young person.”

The mayor’s comment came before he learned of a 15-year-old boy killed in a Northwest Baltimore neighborhood very familiar to him, the 5100 block of Chalgrove Ave., just south of Pimlico Race Course. The boy died, losing an argument when he also lost his life. The mayor grew up near the location the teenager was shot and died.

Also, that week, a 17-year-old youth, leaving a grocery store on West Pratt Street, was shot by two males masked in keeping perhaps with pandemic practices.

It was “hard times” for Baltimore’s children that violent week.  And yet, violence is raging like wildfires in America today: daily news of mass shootings, fatal or injurious encounters with police and everyday shootings in cities such as Baltimore resulting in death or serious harm.  

Earlier this month, a 13-year-old boy was shot in the chest at 2:30 am by a Chicago Police officer responding to a call of gunshots fired in a neighborhood.   Some say the child’s empty hands were up in the air as commanded when he was shot.  The responding officer is on administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated.  

And 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant of Columbus, Ohio was shot four times in the chest by a military-trained marksman who has been with the Columbus Police Department since December of 2019, sixteen months. Officer Nicholas Reardon, responding to a call from 911, shot the teenage girl as he approached the scene.  Some say he took no time to ascertain the identity of the aggressor and he killed a child in foster care who may have called the police for help against a group of aggressive girls therfighting her.  

A 17 year old youth, Darnella Frazier, had the presence of mind and the steadiness of hand to take the video that ultimately helped convict the policeman who murdered George Floyd. That is hopeful.