Friday, December 10, 2010

Every Murder Victim Has A Story: A Surge In Teen Homicides

During November and early December 2010, several teenagers were killed in the Maryland-Washington, DC-Virginia metropolitan area. Normally, youth homicides catch the attention of media commentators due to their emotional impact. But when the victims are poor and persons of color, this typical pattern does not always occur. The inattention to the violence, however, does not diminish the tragedy and pain surrounding these crimes. Every murder victim has a story.

Ebony Franklin: 17 (Important update in Franklin case: here)

Thanksgiving 2010 permanently altered the lives of Ebony Franklin's friends and family. Ebony, a 17-year-old, lived with her mother in Capitol Heights, Maryland. The Friday after Thanksgiving, Ebony told her mother that she was going to spend the weekend with her father, who lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of NW Washington, DC.

By Friday evening, however, Ebony's parents had not heard from her, and her mother filed a missing person's report with the Prince George's County police. Unfortunately, Ebony was not found alive. On Monday, November 29, sanitation workers found Ebony's body stuffed in a trash can in Columbia Heights. She had been stabbed multiple times. Ebony was murdered and discarded like trash.

Predictably, Ebony's friends and family are devastated by the news of her death. Ebony's murder received little attention in local media, but then coverage of her death faded away. But to the people who know Ebony, the pain remains very pronounced.

Friends and family held a candlelight vigil honoring Ebony. Also, several friends' Facebook pages contain commentary about and numerous photos of Ebony. One individual who describes herself as Ebony's best friend, was particularly distraught from the time Ebony went missing and after she was found murdered.
November 28: man im ova here goin crazy prayin for u to cum home to us we love u bestie

November 29: best friend i love u girl who wtf woud do this to my right have they say blood thicker then water but in this case its different i love u gurl n these tears r fallin for u another good one gone n the clouds kisses n a hugs love ur bestie

December 3: i miss u bestfriend n sumtimes i just want to pick up the fone n call u n then it hurts to know that ur just not goin to answer tears ls i love u ebony franklin
Police have not released a motive or the name of a suspect in Ebony's murder.

Miguel Hernandez: 15

On Friday November 19 a group of males surrounded 15-year-0ld Miguel Hernandez as he walked from school in Manassas, Virginia. Members of the group began stabbing Hernandez. He subsequently died from his wounds.

Police have not released a motive for the crime, although several reports suggest that it might have been gang-related. Friends of Hernandez, however, deny that he was ever involved in a gang. After an initial blip of coverage, Hernandez's death lost the interest of local media.

Judging from the multiple Facebook "R.I.P." pages created to honor Hernandez, however, he continues to touch the lives of many people. Here are some posts on the most popular Facebook tribute to Miguel, nicknamed "Mickey":
November 21: When i heard that mickey died from getting stabbed i was sad and i started thinking "why cant the world just get rid of all the gangs, its stupid right just hating some one because they're a different color or because they come from another part of the world, look at how much sadness was caused by the death of mickey. . . .

And here is a very touching dedication from one of Miguel's teachers:
November 22: Mickey was a great student, many of us- his teachers feel this way. We are in just as much pain, I know I am. I've dedicated my life to become the teacher that can make "make a difference" - and now I feel like I failed. Mickey was one of my best and brightest students. Please,.. all of you students, all of you who are predators and are killing our students (gang bangers, dealers, etc), this must end. When will you finally learn.
Despite the pleas from Miguel's friends that others not seek to avenge his murder, another youth was stabbed days after Miguel was murdered. The youth survived, but police believe that his attack was related to Miguel's death.

Raquan Campbell: 15

On December 1, 15-year-old Raquan Cambpell was shot multiple times in the body and head. The attack killed him. The following Baltimore Sun article represents the totality of information regarding Raquan's death in the local news media:
UPDATE: City police just identified the teen victim as Raquan Campbell. 15, of the the 2800 block of Bookert Drive in South Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood.

Some disturbing news out of Southwest Baltimore -- a 15-year-old was shot and killed in Carrollton Ridge. This area has historically been a violent hot spot for drug dealing and violent crime. It's near where a little girl was shot and wounded last years.

Few details are available of this latest shooting. Police told Sun reporter Jessica Anderson that the youth was shot in the head about 5:15 p.m. near South Payson and West Pratt streets and died about an hour later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The youth is the 10th juvenile to be killed in Baltimore this year. There were 16 youths killed in all of 2009.
The murder of a 15-year-old child only merits a few sentences in Baltimore's major newspaper. Many of Raquan's friends, however, have filled this void through the use of social networking.

In most of his pictures available online, Raquan, affectionately known as "Ra Ra," has a big smile on his face. Many of his friends spoke of his smile and his warmth on a Facebook page created in his honor:
December 1: Im Cryinq As I Type This RaRa Youu Were So Funny Im Goinq Miss Ya Geekinq Ass Boy W/Ya Gorqoeus Ass Smilee Uqhh Whyy Youu Tho ! Ily & Imy Youu Always Goinq Be In My Heart I Promise Youu Tht!

December 1: Awwww I really can't believe that some coward took your life you was such a respectful young man.. My prayers are with your family may you rest in peace baby

December 2: Damm man my brova one everytime i close my eyes i just see ya smille and hear ya laugh he had no chance to even fight bacc i swear i wish i cuda took his place now i gotta cope with this broken heart Love all my CherryHill Fam . . . .

Colleen Smith, a volunteer with Metro Kidz in Baltimore, wrote a very impassioned statement regarding Raquan's murder:
I know first hand this kid had a future ahead of him, he might have not been doing the right thing right this very second, but he was doing things 90% better than he was at this time last year, he’s one of the boys I used to get to share stories with in the neighborhood, he’s one of the boys who share his heart with me, he’s one of the boys who I got to see make changes in his life, and no he wasn’t at the place where he wanted to be, but he was working hard to get there. He’s one of the boys I fell in love with, who stole my heart, he’s one of the boys who opened up to me, and showed me respect and trusted me for who I am.
Tragically, Raquan is also one of the boys slaughtered on the streets of Baltimore. Police have not identified any suspects or motives in his killing.

Prince Okorie: 16

On November 30 at 4:30pm, 16-year-old Prince Okorie was gunned down in NW Washington, DC. According to one news report, the shooter killed Okorie because he thought he was a "snitch" in another murder case.

The local media dedicated the standard couple of sentences to Okorie's murder. But independent bloggers have provided more details surrounding his life.

Kathryn Gaglione, a freelance journalist and author of the blog Hers for the Reading, wrote a moving tribute to Okorie that speaks about his life and that condemns the media for reducing him to a "statistic":
What this [Washington Post] article fails to mention is that Prince was known and loved by many people. Not only did I work with him in a tutoring program, but I attended the same church congregation, I know his family, and I see how this tragedy is leaving those who cared about Prince in shock. . . .

Prince was your average teenager. He fought with his sister and talked back to his mother and tried pushing the boundaries. But he was also quiet and sweet and smart. He could have been anything, done anything with his life. All that potential lost.

Too many children are eaten alive by the violence of the inner city. And sometimes, no matter how much people love them or how hard people try to help them, the statistics don't play in their favor. So the next time you read about [homicide] statistics, see Prince there. Those numbers are important because there are people behind them. And every one of them matters.
I agree. On December 10, police arrested 20-year-old Raymond Roseboro of NW DC for the murder of Prince.

Jamal Wilson: 19

On November 14, 19-year-old Jamal Wilson was shot and killed in NW Washington, DC. There is very little about Wilson's death in local media -- except for brief articles that merely quote the police blotter regarding the homicide.

Police, however, have arrested two suspects in Wilson's slaying. One of the suspects -- Kwan Kearney -- was subsequently arrested for the murder of Joseph Alonzo Sharps, a 17-year-old murder victim whose killing was profiled on Dissenting Justice.

Scott Staten: 17

Before I could finish editing this article, yet another teenager became a homicide victim in Washington, DC. On December 8, 17-year-old Scott Staten was shot and killed in SW Washington, DC. At the time this article was published, there were very few details available concerning this homicide.

Final Thoughts

Writing about these murders is a very painful task. Ignoring them because they only affect poor persons of color makes others feel safe.

But homicides diminish our collective humanity. Becoming numb to them erodes our own ability to empathize and to better society. Despite the heavy emotional burden involved with confronting this gruesome reality, I choose to focus on the lives of these young victims and to tell their stories. Thank you for reading.

Note: "Every Murder Victim Has A Story" is an occasional series on Dissenting Justice.


Joyce L. Arnold said...

I've read each of these, and will continue to do so. It's painful reading, as I know the writing must be.

The apparent matter-of-fact manner in which murder is often treated in this nation is appalling. Thank you for documenting the lives, and losses, of very real people.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Joyce, thanks for reading. I have received a lot of positive feedback regarding these posts. Also, along the way, I have met other bloggers who are trying to bring attention to this issue.

It is immensely painful to write these articles, but I feel compelled to do so. Again, thanks for reading!

Joyce L. Arnold said...

For whatever reasons, I have problems trying to post at several Blogspot sites, always due to the "word verification" thingy failing to recognize the word requested. I tell you this only because that is the primary reason I don't comment here more often. Your blog is a regular read for me. Thanks for all the thoughtful posts.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi, Joyce. Sorry to hear that. I wish I didn't have to use that word verification function, but it really helps keep spam to a minimum. If you have trouble, consider asking it to give you a new word. That seems to work for me. You could also alert me by email, and I could cancel the word verification until your post clears.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

There are just so many! It is painful to realize that, just looking at one metro area, you have so many.

AngelaD said...

Keep it going Darren. As I've said before, I have a feeling that these posts will develop into a separate blog or website that will have an impact.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Yeah, Niki - If I really just looked at Baltimore, it would be worse. New Orleans and Detroit are even worse, at least with per capita slayings. St. Louis is pretty bad too.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Angela: I feel that too (another cite). I'm getting a lot of feedback through emails, etc., and it was on the DCBlogs list the last time.

Isaias valencia said...

Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it's truly informative. Cheers! Lost Value

Real Time Analytics