Last night, Ferguson police officer Greg Casem couldn’t sleep. He was haunted by the memory of carrying 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden out of her home and to a waiting ambulance.

Bolden was struck by gunfire when someone shot into her home — and around the corner from the spot where a memorial for slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown still stands on Canfield Drive.

“Oh man,” Casem, 53, told The Washington Post on Friday, pausing for a long moment. “It was tough.”

“I’m just sad,” Casem said, his voice heavy with emotion. “I’m glad that I was there to do my best, but I feel that I didn’t do my best.

“I wish there was more I could’ve done,” he added.

Around 9:30 p.m, someone fired shots into the home on Ellison Drive, where single-family ranchers line the street. Jamyla was killed in her mother’s bed where she was doing homework, her family said. Her mother, 34, was also shot and wounded. No one has been arrested in the crime.

“I kept holding and holding her,” the girl’s grandmother told the Post-Dispatch. “I still have her blood on my hands. She was still breathing. I was telling her to just breathe.”

Residents gather to remember 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden, who was shot and killed in her home while doing homework (Umar Lee)

At a vigil outside the home Thursday night, members of the Ferguson community gathered to mourn a life gone too soon. Casem, unable to hold back his emotions, cried.

His tears were for Jamyla and for Ferguson, where he has served as an officer for nearly three decades. Jamyla’s grandfather came over and hugged him, Casem said. He told Casem, “you did everything you could.”

“I think this really hit me pretty hard because it was real brutal,” Casem said. “I think after what we’ve been through, everything’s been hard.

“But this is a very senseless killing that should never have been. She was 9 years old. 9.”

Casem and another officer at the scene tried desperately to save her life, but Jamyla succumbed to her wounds. Casem went back to work, canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses.

Later, when that work was done, he sat in his car, overcome.

“When you sit in your car and you’re just all alone and you just think about everything,” he said. “I have kids and I remember when they were 9. She should have had a chance to live her life.”

He credited his supervisor, Sgt. Dominica Fuller, who also attended Thursday night’s vigil, for helping him cope: “She kept me together.”

As protests and unrest in Ferguson have filled headlines nationwide, Casem has at times been on the front lines.

In December, he clashed with protesters who he encouraged not to destroy the community. In one case, he faced off with a protester who he has known since the young man was a child, according to the Daily Mail, whose photographer captured the exchange:

He said: ‘Look at that, look at that!’
The protester screamed in his face: ‘How you gonna help? How you gonna help?’
Officer Casem replied: ‘How are these families gonna eat? How are they gonna get their diapers?’

“Being there for this long, I got to know a lot of people. I got to know the citizens and they know me,” Casem explained.”It’s only hard when the destruction occurs and I felt sad about that.”

Jamyla’s death has shocked a community already hurting from a year of turmoil.

After months of protests against police violence, on Thursday night, a crowd of about 200 gathered and marched to show solidarity. According to the Post-Dispatch, they chanted “show me what community looks like.”

“I just want her to be in peace and find out why it happened and the person or persons who inflicted this pain to come to justice,” Jamyla’s father, James Bolden, told the Post-Dispatch. “I’m looking for people to come together in this world to celebrate our daughter and her life. That’s what it’s about, it’s about an innocent life taken too soon.”