Prince George’s County has counted its sixth high school victim of gun violence this school year. Six students in six months shot over nothing more than a pair of shoes or an argument.
If six kids were shot dead in a school in a rampage by a single shooter, the world would be all over it, picking apart the shooter’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, delving into the parents’ marriage. We’d hear those calls for better gun control, advocacy for mental illness, questions about the impact of violent video games and movies.
But other than a vigil and the formation of a county task force to look into the killings, there was little outrage or acknowledgment that this is not normal. Six kids just shouldn’t be shot during the school year, while the rest of their classmates go about the business of ordering yearbooks and picking a homecoming theme.
Isn’t it scarier that rather than one, unhinged shooter, there are at least six?
It’s been a tough week in Prince George’s County. A father and two of his little girls were killed in a Glenarden house fire early Thursday morning, and an Oxon Hill toddler died in a car accident after being struck by the family car. Those deaths come on top of the student shootings and seem just as senseless. Why? For what?
At Suitland High School, which lost two of its 2,400 students to off-campus gunfire this week, many of the kids come from working-class African American families. They take the bus because they don’t go to the kind of school where the student parking lot is packed with four-wheeled, 16th-birthday presents. But most didn’t grow up on streets with rat-a-tat gunfire and police helicopters thwack-thwack-thwacking all night. They normally put most of their energy into worrying about tests, college applications or trade school admission dates, not the possibility of being gunned down.
“I keep listening to what my grandparents say,” said Damone Turner, who is 15 and plays basketball at Suitland.
His grandparents help him avoid bad influences, he said. They tell him to study hard, work hard, stay out of trouble. But before all this, they didn’t have to keep telling him to watch his back while walking down the street.
“Now, after that incident, I’m looking over my shoulder, watching my back,” Damone said. “You just never know.”
He was thinking of his classmate, 15-year-old Charles Walker Jr. — known as “CJ” or “Chuck” — who was shot dead Monday by one of five young men who allegedly tried to rob him of a pair of Timberland boots he was carrying in a shopping bag, right after he bought them for his girlfriend.
After Walker, it was Aaron Kidd, an 18-year-old student at Suitland High, who was killed in a Forestville apartment complex Tuesday. Another 18-year-old died in that shooting too.