The production and sale of firearms in the U.S. is a huge business.  The annual revenue from the manufacturing of guns and ammunition within the U.S. is $11 billion.  This includes the production of rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols (sources: State fish & Game Departments, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).

And, yes, guns do kill.  Whether it be the 26 victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school or the murder of the five people at the Fort Lauderdale airport this month, guns, in the hands of angry, sick people, do kill.  They kill in our nation; they kill in our own back yards.

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, there were 188 homicides per year in the St. Louis Metropolitan area in 2015 and 2016.  In 2015, 179 of those murders were committed with firearms; 19 of the victims were under age 20.  Already in 2017,  there have been 27 homicides in the City of St. Louis, 25 of which were committed with firearms; 4 of the victims were under age 20.


 In our last PEP E-zine we told the story of a young man’s killing, from the perspective of his mother. Here is another story as described by a heart broken mother and his sister. This is another example of an on-going tragedy in St. Louis, one that is not yet close to resolution. As before the names of those involved have been kept anonymous.

The conversation occurred in the charming living room of a brick bungalow with sun streaming through the windows onto an array of plants. On the wall were two framed certificates, one recognizing the graduation of  Ms. X from the Southwestern Illinois Community College, and one recognizing the graduation of her son Y from Triple C magnet high school. Both graduations occurred in May 2014; Y was killed in September, two days before his 18th birthday.

Ms. X: “I grew up in the Vaughn Housing Project at Cass and 21st Street. It was a happy time. My grandmother was the backbone of a large, extended family.  However, after she died, the family drifted apart. Y loved his family; periodically he tried to get the family together.”

Z (Y’s sister): “I was almost 10 years older than my brother, but we were friends. We talked and joked a lot. I went to Central Visual and Performing Arts, and got into cosmetology. I work in different places and it keeps me going.”

Ms. X: “Y had asthma and acid reflex when he was a kid, but that went away as he got older. I separated from my husband, and after he got a new girl-friend, he saw less and less of Y. Later when he had MS, followed by brain cancer, he saw more of his son, but by this time Y felt angry that he had been neglected by his father.”

“One of my cousins has two kids – A who was a few years younger than Y, and B who was 6 or 7 years older. Y would go over there to hang out. Then I learned that my son was spending a lot of time with one of B’s friends (C) who was about the same age. When I met the young man, I immediately had a bad feeling – why was this kid spending so much time with my much younger son.  I told my son to stay away from him.”

Z: “Last April my brother got a part time job at McDonald’s. It turns out C’s girl-friend worked there, and had gotten him the job. We were happy for him, but encouraged him to get a firm schedule from the restaurant so that we could anticipate when he needed a ride to work. Then Y observed that the girl-friend was flirting with others, and he must have talked with C, because soon the girl was saying very hurtful things to him.”

X: “In May we learned that Y had gotten in a fight near his school. My daughter asked a policeman friend to see if there was a police record because of the fight. Instead we learned that there was a “felony warrant” outstanding, because C’s girl-friend had complained to the police that Y had fired shots at her house. My daughter and I knew that he had been at a cousin’s birthday so that he could not have done it. And we knew that despite his temper, he would not have done it.”

“We could see Y was scared. He was not talking with C, and he said he wanted to turn himself in to the police, but after his birthday. I got him an attorney, and after he graduated from High School, I got him a used pick-up truck that he could use for his lawn cutting work.”

“Sometime in late August he was in another neighborhood where my uncle stays. He said he tried to break up a fight between a guy and girl, and then 4 individuals jumped on him and beat him badly. He was hurting and he was furious. He had money in a bank account, and he asked me to take $150 out.  My immediate suspicion was that he wanted to buy a gun. I said I wouldn’t do it. We later learned that he called a lot of his cousins and friends, and that the last call was to C.”

Z: “My mom and I encouraged Y to spend some time with his godmother in Bellefontaine Neighbors.  Mom cooked one of his favorite meals – chicken alfredo. He was crying about his dad. Mom drove him to his godmother. On Thursday evening I called him and again on Friday afternoon. There was no answer. Then I got through to his godmother. She was confused and didn’t know where he was. I called Mom to say that he was missing.”

X: “I started crying. Somehow I knew he was dead. There had been something like 6 shootings that Thursday. The Police suggested that I call the Coroner’s Office. They asked us to come down, and, not to be alarmed, but that we had to fill out a “homicide card.”  We soon identified him in the Morgue.”

“He had been found on a vacant lot near North Grand. People sitting on a near-by porch said that a truck had come up at night, driven around the block and then pulled onto the lot.  One of them went over to the lot with a flashlight after the truck left. There was Y’s body without, according to the police, an ID or cell phone. We learned who the detective on the case was, but had difficulty in getting him to call us back. It was unclear if he had relayed his findings to a day time detective when he went off shift.  They said they would check out video cameras at a near-by bank, church and gas station. But when we went ourselves, those people said that the Police had never come by. The Police said that without the cell phone they could not follow up with C, even though we knew from the phone records that he was the last person Y called.”

The funeral was at my brother’s church. It bothers me the way people want to look at a body. That is not the way I wanted to remember my son. I had him cremated and placed in a niche at St. Peters. Six months have gone by, but I have not heard the status of my request for the reimbursement of funeral expenses.

“It is so hard without any closure. One of the good things is that I have gotten to know Reverend Traci Blackman who has been so active with those protesting the Michael Brown killing.  I went on a bus with her to see the Legislature in Jefferson City, and I have marched with her. But I wish people wanted to march and protest for all the young kids who are killed, not just the ones who are killed by white police.”

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