As the remnants of Hurricane Dorian were lashing rural Nashville, N.C., 7-year-old MiAsia Perry was learning to ride her new hoverboard in the family’s living room.
It was near dinner time, and her grandpa Elton was busy in the kitchen. Her older sister, Zyniya, was watching TV in a bedroom, and her grandma Michelle was at work over in Durham at the plant, building Toyota transmissions on the third shift.
Just before 7:30 p.m., the time that would appear on the Nash County Sheriff’s report, Elton Andrews heard a strange popping in the living room and went to check it out. Must be lightbulbs bursting, he thought to himself. Lightning probably caused a power surge.
But as he entered the room he was pretty sure he saw little projectiles coming through the front wall and window, and as his mind tried to make sense of that, he saw MiAsia on the floor.
A day in gunshot America.
A pandemic that never ends.
These are the numbers that barely budge: On an average day, 313 people are shot in the United States, and 103 of them die, including 63 who kill themselves with guns.
The Washington Post wanted to capture this daily drumbeat of gun violence as fully as possible, knowing the toll cannot be precise. There is no nationwide registry to search. Suicides rarely show up in news reports or police blotters. The average numbers are based on a Post analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data and estimates that are a few years old.
We chose Sept. 5, 2019, the day MiAsia was shot, because it did not fall on a prime day for gun violence, such as a holiday, a Friday night, or a long day in the middle of summer. No single shooting grabbed national attention. It was just a Thursday.
Still, we confirmed that at least 113 people were shot that day. We identified 36 of them who died — in domestic attacks, shootings involving police, robberies, accidents, fights that escalated, suicides. Some unlucky people just happened to be in the line of fire, or on the other side of a wall.
Here is how the epidemic of gun violence unfolded over 24 hours, a year ago today.
Law enforcement officers fired their weapons at people in at least eight incidents on Sept. 5. Three suspects died. That is the average number of people fatally shot every day by police since 2015, according to a Post investigation.
Cortez Shepherd was the first person shot, shortly before 1 a.m. Two police officers on patrol saw a crowd around a car. Shepherd was in the car, sitting with the 7-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, according to St. Louis Police Chief John W. Hayden. Officers saw marijuana on Shepherd’s lap and tried to arrest him; he resisted. The little girl fled to her mother, nearby.
After Shepherd, 28, reached toward a loaded revolver in his pocket, Hayden said, an “officer fires his gun, hitting Shepherd in the chest and killing him."
He was one of 28 people killed by police in Missouri in 2019.
Sam Burt, 65, was the second person fatally shot by police on Sept. 5, at 2:50 p.m. Officers, responding to a call that he had killed his elderly sister in rural Troup County, Ga., came upon him on a dock holding a gun. Ordered to drop it, Burt raised it toward sheriff’s deputies and LaGrange police, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report.
John Carras, 43, was the third, around 6:30 p.m. The high school psychologist in East Hartford, Conn., charged at officers who arrived at his home as he was strangling his wife, a special-education teacher. Their children, 9 and 11, had run screaming to neighbors for help.
Jose Andrade-Sanchez was not killed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who shot him about 7 a.m. in a Nashville grocery store parking lot. The encounter did end up with his deportation.
He was sitting in a truck waiting for co-workers when two ICE agents approached to arrest him for being in the country illegally, according to ICE spokesman Bryan D. Cox. He drove off, federal prosecutors said, and an agent fired twice into the truck as it accelerated, hitting Andrade-Sanchez in the stomach. He later went to a hospital and turned himself in.
Officials said he had been deported four times and once pleaded guilty to assaulting a girlfriend. Charged with reentering the country illegally, Andrade-Sanchez was arrested Sept. 17 in the parking lot outside his immigration attorney’s office. Agents uncuffed him and let him hug his wife and give his belongings to her.
“As sucky as that moment was for everybody, including everyone in our office, there was a small touch of humanity in it,” his attorney, Aaron Dendy, said. “Not a lot, considering they shot him a couple of times.”
A loaded gun often turns a mistake or dispute into something dangerous or deadly.
On Sept. 5, a postal worker in Canton, Ohio, accidentally discharged a gun in his mail truck, then got out and shot the truck again to make it look like an attack. No one was hurt; he was arrested for making a false police report.
In a Hickory, N.C., mall, a father picked up his son, whose foot hit his father’s holstered pistol. It fired and hit his mother in both feet. The father was charged with a misdemeanor.
A West Virginia man who stopped to give his younger cousin a ride was shot in the leg when they struggled over the AR-15-style rifle the cousin was carrying. In Hillsborough, N.C., two best friends argued, and one shot the other in the face. The victim was not badly hurt; the shooter was charged.
In Toledo, a bar fight that began over a poorly made drink ended in the death of a 35-year-old father of three.
Steven LaCourse was at Beer 30 in East Toledo celebrating a friend’s birthday, his wife told the Toledo Blade, when Vashawn Dixon got upset with the way the bartender made his black Russian cocktail, said prosecutors.
LaCourse tried to lighten the mood, but the two patrons’ argument escalated to a fistfight. Dixon pulled a gun. The bullet hit a femoral artery, and LaCourse bled to death, the Blade reported. His obituary described him as “the life of the party” and asked funeral goers to “please wear your best blue jeans and Buckeye shirts. Because, it is what it is.”
Dixon made a plea deal and was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in jail.
An average of 63 people in the United States kill themselves with guns every day, according to Post analysis of CDC data, accounting for two-thirds of all gun deaths. Most occur in private.
The Post found seven suicides on Sept. 5, far short of the number that most likely occurred. Two of the dead were discovered after reports of gunshots. Three men killed themselves during police standoffs, and two died in murder-suicides.
Police in Sugar Creek, Mo., swarmed a house after a man began firing through the windows around midnight. The shooter’s father was outside but unhurt. They blocked off the area, warned neighbors to stay inside and tried for hours to contact the shooter, said police chief Chris Soule.
They threw in a phone. He did not answer. They sent in a robot. He shot it.
Around 7 a.m., the standoff ended when police sent in a drone and saw the man down, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He died hours later in a nearby hospital.
Police officers also are shot and killed.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 48 U.S. law enforcement officers were killed by gunfire while on duty in 2019. As of the end of August, 31 have been fatally shot this year.
No police were killed with guns on Sept. 5, but officers were fired upon in at least four incidents. Of three hit, Brad Sullivan, a sheriff’s deputy in Madison County, Miss., was wounded most seriously.
A kidnapping suspect in a Jeep led deputies on an erratic chase for a half-hour, before crashing nose-down in a ditch. He emerged firing a fully automatic rifle.
Sullivan, then 42, described the shooting in a Fox Nation website interview in December: “When I saw him bail out with the long rifle, I put it in reverse. As soon as I hit reverse is when the two rounds hit me here,” he said, pointing to his right temple.
Sullivan’s Tahoe was one of six sheriff’s vehicles that were hit with gunfire. Two other deputies were slightly wounded. The single father spent a month in a medically-induced coma and faces a long recovery after multiple surgeries. He updates supporters on his progress through his Facebook page.
Suspect Edgar James Egbert, a former Marine who had two automatic weapons and several 30-round magazines in the Jeep, fired at least 89 rounds, an agent testified at his Sept. 24 court hearing. He had kidnapped and chained to a bed in his home a man who Egbert thought was having an affair with his wife, according to testimony. When he connected with his wife via Facebook Live video, she called police. He is awaiting trial on several felony charges.
Sullivan cannot walk unassisted, but he can speak just fine, said his supervisor, Lt. Joey Butler. He is training to counsel other police through trauma.
“Brad is the picture of what it takes to be an officer,” Butler said. “You have to prepare yourself for the possibilities.”
On average, three people are fatally shot every day by an intimate partner, according to the Brady Campaign. Many more are shot and survive. Female victims far outnumber males. On Sept. 5, gunfire was involved in at least 18 domestic assaults. Two were murder-suicides, in Clarksville, Tenn., and Vancouver, Wash. In both, investigators said, men killed women, then themselves. In two other shootings, men killed their sisters.
Sometimes police respond to a domestic violence call in time to intervene. In a Houston community that Thursday, a neighbor with a gun stepped in.
Chuck Meyers, 66, was on a ladder putting up a basketball hoop at a friend’s house when he heard glass break. He turned to see a man pouring something through a broken window into a house at the corner, he told The Post. Then it went up in flames.
Meyers dialed 911, and as the man drove away, a woman ran toward him screaming. The man who set the fire sped back toward them in his car.
Another neighbor, Calvin Fitzgerald, 23, was in his house across the street. He saw the man park, grab a shard of glass and begin stabbing the woman. A third neighbor came outside with a gun and yelled at the attacker to get off the woman.
“He told the guy to ‘Get off, get off, get off!’ ” Fitzgerald said.
The attacker did not stop. The neighbor fired.
Ernest Lovell Davis, 60, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and legs. He was a registered sex offender who had served nearly 32 years in prison for sexual assault and robbery. Police said he and the woman had previously dated.
On the evening of Sept. 5, Patchita Tennant, 42, shot her estranged boyfriend in the chest and shoulder during a fight in a house they co-owned in Flanders, N.Y., according to Southampton police.
Andrew Mitchell, 46, was airlifted to a hospital and survived; Tennant fled but turned herself into police at 1 p.m. the next day.
Both testified at her trial in March on charges that included attempted murder, according to the Riverheard News-Review. Tennant told the jury that Mitchell had been abusive, and she wrestled the gun away that night and shot him in self-defense. She was acquitted of all charges.
Every year, almost 8,000 children and teens are shot, based on CDC data from 2014 to 2018, and more than 1,500 of them die. MiAsia Perry, who was playing on her hoverboard when the bullets hit, was one of at least five children shot Sept. 5.
Just before 6 p.m., 2-year-old William Stallworth Jr. found a loaded pistol in the console of his father’s car in Visalia, Calif., and fatally shot himself in the head. William Stallworth, 25, called 911 and is charged with murder. He told investigators he was outside the car talking with a man when he heard a pop.
On Sept. 5, at least 34 children and teens were involved in at least 18 shootings —sometimes as the shooter, sometimes as the victim, other times simply present when the violence broke out.
The list would be longer if it included the two dozen school lockdowns that The Post found that day, resulting from firearms found in or near schools or for threats of gun violence. No shots were fired in any of them.
Several other shootings on Sept. 5 involved people who just happened to be in a bullet’s path.
One of them was Patricia Blanchard, 69. She had just taught a class at Calico Gals, a Syracuse quilt shop, when she noticed a car and a truck "driving erratically" near her Honda Accord.
At an intersection she heard a noise, like a stone hitting her windshield, she told The Post, and it left “a little gouge.” Must have come from the truck, she figured, as she watched it speed off.
LEFT: The Calico Gals quilt shop in Syracuse, N.Y. (Kate Lovering/for The Washington Post). RIGHT: The passenger side window still sits shattered, three months after Patti Blanchard was shot at while driving home from teaching. (Kate Lovering For The Washington Post).
But as she entered an interstate on-ramp, the other car pulled up beside her, and she heard "this terrible noise." Her front passenger window had shattered, Blanchard said — shot out by “some type of gun."
Blanchard was terrified, and her instinct was to get home fast, but she reconsidered and pulled off at the next exit and into a gas station to call 911.
The decision probably saved her life.
She had not been hit by a bullet, the responding police confirmed, but she started feeling a sudden throbbing pain in her throat, ears and temple. Police called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. Blanchard had an aortic dissection, a life-threatening tear in the lining of the main artery that carries blood away from the heart. She said the doctor thought the sudden spike in her blood pressure caused the tear.
“He said, ‘You literally were almost scared to death,’ ” Blanchard recalled.
Police never found any witnesses or video evidence, nor suspects or motive. The likely weapon was a pellet or BB gun, they said.
Blanchard recovered and moved in with her daughter, Becky. She was able to return to her part-time secretarial job at a youth facility just three weeks before the pandemic shut it down. At first, they thought they would get rid of the Honda, so Patricia would never “have to look at it again,” Becky said.
They ended up keeping it, but Patricia has not driven it once.
After the gunfire
When Elton Andrews first saw his granddaughter on the floor, he hoped MiAsia had just fallen off her hoverboard. Or maybe she had gotten down on the floor — as he did — when he realized bullets were flying through the room.
But when he crawled over to her, he saw blood.
One of five bullets that a gunman fired from his car passed through the front wall of the house, through the sofa, through MiAsia’s right shoulder and into her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down.
Authorities arrested the suspected shooter almost immediately.
As one set of sheriff’s deputies investigated the scene at the Andrews residence, another responded to a disturbance call a few miles down the road. There they found Jhosmin Sandoval, 23, in a tussle with his mother. After questioning them both, they took Sandoval into custody.
He may have had an “ongoing dispute,” according to the Nash County Sheriff’s office, with someone he mistakenly thought lived at the Andrews house.
The shooting stunned the Perry girls’ extended family, who have lived in the area for at least six generations. What happened to MiAsia was crushing to all of them, said Dorothy Murphy Stallings, the family matriarch, but especially to her daughter and son-in-law, Michelle and Elton. The couple have parented their granddaughters from infancy.
“They are just destroyed,” Stallings said in November.
Like the family, the community also was shocked.
The gun violence that more often plagues Rocky Mount half an hour away is uncommon in Nashville, said Maj. Eddie Moore of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ll have [a shooting] here or there on occasion,” he said, “but it’s not something we get a lot.”
Once folks realized the unthinkable had happened, they rallied around the little girl whom school receptionist Sonya Williams called “full of bubbles.” They sold T-shirts, they staged raffles, they sent money, videos, gift cards and prayers. When they learned the family was driving two hours round trip every day to the hospital, they sent gas station cards.
MiAsia spent two months in the hospital, and after she came home in November, a “run, walk-and-roll-a-thon” in the nearby town of Spring Hope raised more than $2,000 for her care. Donations rolled in from local businesses and organizations such as a Baptist church, an auction house, a bail bondsman, a funeral home and the Royal Stallions Mustang Club.
During downtime at the event, Elton Andrews whispered the story of what happened on Sept. 5, including the path of the bullet. “It was burning,” MiAsia piped up from her hot-pink-and-purple wheelchair. She’d been listening as she watched a SpongeBob video.
When the principal of her elementary school began to speak, MiAsia perked up. “I want to go back to school!” she declared, and about two weeks later on Dec. 2, she did just that, wheeling into her second-grade homeroom for the first time since the second week of class.
At first, watching other kids run around outside bothered MiAsia, but she has very few bad days now that she can play, too, said her aunt Kiahira Murphy, 28, who had a baby boy in July and now lives with her parents and nieces.
LEFT: MiAsia Perry, 8, plays at home in Nashville, N.C. She is adapting well, her family says, to a life much changed after she was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting. (Eamon Queeney For The Washington Post). RIGHT: MiAsia Perry, 8, at the kitchen table. (Eamon Queeney For The Washington Post).
A year after the shooting, MiAsia has turned 8. She is taller, stronger and sporting a new pair of red-framed glasses. She is still full of bubbles.
She does a lot for herself, such as getting dressed and maneuvering into and out of her wheelchair, but she still has nursing care most days to help with medications and complications. Her sister, Zyniya, who is now 10, knows how to properly clean up after a catheterization, how to change a diaper, how to buckle her into the car.
The sisters are inseparable. They share a deep love of McDonald’s French fries and singing Beyoncé songs. They hang out together inside and play together outside.
One day in late August, MiAsia easily popped wheelies in the pink-and-purple chair. She will occasionally will feel a sensation in her feet — like ants, Murphy says — and once in a while a foot or leg will move involuntarily, but she can’t replicate the movement when she tries. A therapeutic “standing chair,” designed to boost muscle tone in her lower body, lifts her to a standing position when she pumps its handle.
“Look, my legs are straight!” she pointed out, excitedly.
MiAsia doesn’t talk about the shooting much, family members say, and they wonder how much she understands about what happened.
A while back, she was trying to figure out a way to ride the hoverboard by lying on it and using her arms. Stallings recalled her saying, “Grandma, maybe if I wasn’t on the hoverboard, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
Her great-grandmother told MiAsia that none of it was the hoverboard’s fault and certainly not her own. The toy stayed out of the Andrews’ house for a long time, though.
Neither Michelle or Elton Andrews could bear to look at it.