NEWS OF the death of a 28-year-old man shot in Southeast Washington as he sat in his car near his son’s school at 10:50 the morning of March 1 was easy to miss. “One of six shot on same street has died” was the headline on the 84-word news brief about the death of Andrew McPhatter. That is how routine gun violence is in impoverished neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. That should not be acceptable to any of us. A subsequent heartbreaking story about Mr. McPhatter’s son brings that home.
The devastating impact of violence on children was detailed by The Post’s John Woodrow Cox as he chronicled the shooting death of Mr. McPhatter through the eyes of his second-grade son, Tyshaun. For children living in high-crime communities such as Congress Heights, wrote Mr. Cox, “the unrelenting threat of violence shapes almost every aspect of their lives: the streets they walk down, the parks they visit, the pictures they draw, the nightmares they have, the number of parents they come home to.”
Imagine being a 7-year-old so schooled to the sound of gunfire that you know to dive when told to “get down.” Imagine being a parent or grandparent who can’t allow your child to play outside. Imagine being a teacher at a school where almost every one of your 700 students, aged 3 to 9 years, has witnessed violence or its aftermath. “Some of these children,” said Eagle Academy Public Charter School teacher Dawne Wilson, “have been through more in their young lives than I’ve been through in my adult life.”
Tyshaun’s mother wanted her son’s story told so that people in places far safer, though maybe just a few miles away, would understand his world. Any suggestion of a simple solution is foolish, but even a 7-year-old knows that part of the answer must include doing something about the too-easy availability of guns. “Whoever invented guns needs to stop,” said Tyshaun. That Tyshaun’s school understands the trauma suffered by this young boy and the urgency of giving him help underscores how important it is to give schools the resources they need to provide proper support.
No arrest has been made in Mr. McPhatter’s death, and police believe the shooting was part of some sort of neighborhood feud. It is likely there are those in the community who have information that could help police identify who is responsible. They should come forward. Police and government must assess what more they can do to help poor minority communities trapped in poverty and crime. No one, especially children living in the capital of a country that prides itself as being the world’s leader, should have to live with the constant threat that they or someone they love or know will die or be injured in a shooting.