“Shootings Soar in Oakland; Children Often the Victims:” this was the headline of an article from the January 7, 2012 New York Times about an upsurge in shooting incidents in the East Bay city in 2011. The same troubling headline could have been used last week.
Last Wednesday, 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine was at a sleepover at her best friend Amara’s house when someone came to the door. The two girls and Amara’s younger brother, Antoine, rushed to open it and were hit by a spray of bullets. 7-year-old Amara was shot in the shoulder, 4-year-old Antoine was grazed in the stomach and their grandmother was also wounded. But Alaysha was killed by the gunfire from the unknown shooter. Of the seven children shot to death in Oakland this year, she is the youngest.
Brea Colbert, Amara’s and Antoine’s mother, was at her job at Oakland Children’s Hospital when the gunfire occurred. She tells KTVU that she does not know why her house was targeted and that she and her family are too terrified to return home. Alaysha’s mother, Chiquita Carradine, was on a business trip to Washington, D.C., when she got the call that her daughter, whose nickname was “Ladybug,” had been killed.
Alaysha had just finished second grade and was a familiar presence in her neighborhood in Oakland’s “normally quiet” Dimond district. Her stepfather, Jesse Fowler, said she was a “phenomenal” reader and “a breath of fresh air, one of the most smart, fun-loving, spunky kids you’d ever meet. Somebody that loves to help people, somebody that everybody loved, and everybody loved to be around her.” He wonders if the shooter had meant to go to a different house.
“I just want to get justice for her death. I don’t feel like the person who just took her life should be able to roam the streets and be free when I don’t get to spend any more days with my baby,” Carradine said to KTVU about Alaysha.
Neighbors have created an impromptu memorial of balloons, flowers and teddy bears for Alaysha. One neighbor whose grandchildren played with the two wounded children expressed little faith in Oakland’s beleaguered and understaffed police force to solve the crime. The Oakland police said that, while they have “some leads” and are offering a $35,000 reward for information on it, they have neither a description of the killer nor a motive for the shooting.
It goes without saying that Alaysha’s death is senseless. At a vigil on Thursday to remember Alaysha, some religious leaders said that violence in Oakland has risen to “epidemic” levels this year. Pastors from 18 African-American churches told KTVU that “part of the solution is having more African-American police officers with ties to the community”; they specifically called for the reinstatement of Captain Ersie Joyner, who had been recently removed from a leadership position in East Oakland.
Since the Sandy Hook tragedy last December, the Oakland police have collected hundreds of guns in a gun buyback program, one of many in the Bay Area. Many of the firearms that were turned in were illegal to own. One teenage Oakland resident who had volunteered at a previous gun buyback told KTVU that the reality is that it is still to easy to procure a gun in Oakland, even though the city has no gun stores.
Along with the deaths of more than 100 children so far this year by firearm, the killing of Alaysha is yet one more reason why the U.S. needs to get serious about gun reform. As Care2 blogger s.e. smith wrote, the conversation about gun reform must steer clear of “extremist rhetoric” and “stress that the ultimate goal is public safety, not storming into private homes to seize weapons from everyone.” Alaysha Carradine died because someone stormed a private home with a weapon — and that someone, and the gun that was used, have both yet to be found.
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