SHE WAS 10 years old and on her way to get ice cream when a car pulled up outside her home in Northeast Washington. Men spilled out of the car and without warning started shooting into the crowd of people who had gathered outside to enjoy the remaining light of a warm summer evening. Makiyah Wilson was shot and killed. Her mother held her and said over and over: “Please don’t let my baby die.”
“We have to be outraged,” Assistant D.C. Police Chief Chanel Dickerson said of Monday night’s shooting in the courtyard of Clay Terrace Apartments that wounded four other people. Ms. Dickerson was, of course, correct, yet her words don’t adequately capture the horror of the loss of this little girl who had just celebrated her birthday, loved art and puzzles, and was excited about starting fifth grade.
No words can.
What makes Makiyah’s death even more unbearable is that it is not all that uncommon. Gun violence is routine in the United States, cities are most affected, and victims are disproportionately black and from struggling neighborhoods. Such shootings generally don’t get much national attention, unlike the school attacks and other mass shootings that account for a tiny proportion of the country’s gun deaths.
Monday’s shooting is under investigation. Police released a surveillance video of the suspected vehicle and the masked shooters, but so far there have been no arrests or public disclosure of a possible motive. Was it gang-related? A neighborhood beef? Drug-related? Police are looking to the community for information and have offered a reward of up to $25,000.
Homicides in D.C. are up 46 percent over last year, with six of the victims so far between the ages of 14 and 17. Among them: 14-year-old Steven Slaughter (“the best kid ever,” his mother said), shot as he walked home from a store with a friend; and 16-year-old Taiyania Aaliyah Thompson (“bubbly and bright,” said her grandmother), shot in the head. The day before Makiyah was killed, a 12-year-old boy was injured in a shooting, and two weeks ago, on the Fourth of July, an 11-year-old girl was hit in the face by a stray bullet.
“Enough is enough,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said on Twitter. Of course, she is right, but again the words are inadequate in the face of the need for ways to get guns off the streets, improve youth services and attack the other root causes of violence. Makiyah’s death should serve as a call to action.