Imario Ballard

My son Imario was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on September 15, 2018, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Imario was standing in the street, leaning inside the car of his godbrother, when a car came down the street and someone shot him. Imario was the second oldest of nine. He was a fun-loving son, brother, father, uncle, friend and had just recently became a granddad in April. His hobby was working on cars.

My mind constantly takes me back to when I received the call saying he had been shot. I arrived at the hospital and was met by the chaplain (I didn’t know who she was until afterward). I was taken into a room with my other children, who had arrived before me. Next, doctors, nurses, security and detectives entered the room. The doctor sat by me and said, “When your son was brought in, he didn’t have a heartbeat or pulse. We opened him up to resuscitate him, but we were unsuccessful.” It felt like my heart stopped, as I was gasping for air. It was unbelievable that my son was no longer here.

My godson said his last words were, “Call my mama.”

His case is still unsolved.

The Whitington Family

May 29, 2015 is the day my family lost our beautiful boy; the infamous day when promising potential was taken from the world. There is no word for a parent who loses a child. The weight of the pain is ineffable. When you lose a loved one to gun violence, trauma reverberates throughout all of society with cascading destruction.

Frank Gaines Whitington was taken at the violent hands of others—taken less than two weeks from graduating from Memphis University School, just before his 19th birthday. He was a martyr to Memphis gun violence in a carjacking robbery-homicide by young gang members.

Gaines was a superlative of his senior class and a man for all seasons. He had plans to work in the astronautical engineering field after university. He lived a full life of travel and experience, affecting many friends and family positively. He remains in so many fond, cherished memories.

Bereaved families experience further trauma through a criminal justice system in need of full reform. We work towards that end and the demand for common-sense gun laws. The one perpetrator held to justice was out on bail on the streets with an illegal gun.

Carmen Pagan (S.O.M.B.E.R)

My name is Carmen Pagan. On January 3, 2016, at 5:59 p.m., my oldest brother, Richard Davila, was shot three times and killed as he made his way across the street to my mother’s home. Richard was caught in between a drug turf war, where the individuals who were standing on opposite sides of West Wishart Street decided to open fire, from one end to the other, at each other. My brother was caught in the crossfire.

After the shots rang out, my mother called my brother’s cell phone to make sure he was OK, and there was no answer. My mother, father and siblings ran out after the shooting ceased and found my brother lying between the sidewalk and street unresponsive. He took his last breaths on that cold sidewalk on that day. My mother called me shortly after, and it is a phone call I will never forget: a mother’s cry for the loss of her son. In October 2020 I would place that same call to my mother, as my son had been shot three times but survived. So many lives changed forever. Too many gone too soon.

Brother Taj

In May 2020, I was attacked while exiting my car in the late evening, in front of my apartment. I was shot five times by an unknown assailant, whom I didn’t see. The first shot entered and shattered my eye socket, the other four hitting my arms and shoulders and shattering my elbow. My carotid artery was damaged, and after the paramedics moved me to the ambulance, a blood clot loosened and went to my brain. This caused me to have a stroke, which, in turn, caused me to lose all feeling in my left hand, arm and leg.

Despite my injuries, I survived and left the hospital after only two months. I went back to work as prison reentry advocate and case manager, and in July, I welcomed the birth of my son.

I consider myself a walking miracle, and it is clear to me that my time was not up because I have plenty of good work to still do.

Brittany Jasinski

I lost my best friend on April 10, 2016, due to a senseless act of gun violence. He was trying to fight off people jumping his friends at a night club in Philly. A random stranger shot and killed him. One shot to the chest, and he was gone forever. The funny thing is, he hated going out, especially to bars and clubs.

He left behind family and friends who love him dearly, but most importantly, he left behind his beautiful daughter. She was robbed of a father.

He was someone you felt you knew your whole life. He had such a contagious smile and laugh and could change your mood in an instant. He was always on the go, never in one place too long. He had a great passion for music and loved making it. When he loved, he loved deeply. Despite your flaws, he loved and accepted all of you, never judging. He had many flaws himself; he was growing and working on being a better him, but he’ll never have that chance. I miss my best friend. RIP.

Kimberly and Lamar Devoe

My 17-year-old daughter lost her life to gun violence on February 8, 2020. She leaves behind a five-month-old son and five other siblings. She had dreams of going to college and taking up dance, which is and has always been her passion. She was the light and laughter of the house. I had just spoken to her 30 minutes prior because she was heading to the corner store and then coming home. I can’t tell her story without crying; it hurts. Please, everyone, put the guns down…

Marques

I was only 25 when my cousin was struck by a stray bullet due to nearby gang violence. She wasn’t killed instantly but did die in my arms at the scene. She was only 16. She told me, with her last few breaths, to make sure this never happened to anyone else. It has been my duty to do whatever is necessary to honor my cousin’s name. It’s also to ensure that no one else has to feel the pain that I do everyday. I honor her every day by staying strong. Miss you Julia!!

Love always,
Marques

HOWIE

When we forgive those who have caused us the most pain, healing is possible. Forgiveness is the most powerful tool we have to transform our pain into hope.

Howard G. Young, Jr. was shot and killed while standing on the street in Burlington, New Jersey, on November 25, 2016. The man who killed him was arrested, tried and convicted of first-degree murder on February 12, 2018.

This is Howie’s story.

My son Howie was a different kind of guy. He was fearless and kept me worried most of the time. In fact, he thrived on adventure and liked living dangerously. He was not a cuddly-type of person, and he seldom showed his true feelings. Some people might think that he was a “tough guy,” but he was quite the opposite. He was very sensitive and really had a good heart, so I’d like to think that he was a “rebel” — a kind of renegade in disguise. Some of my family members described him as determined, thankful, sunny, funny, appreciative, witty, precocious, lovable, active, sincere, sensitive, caring, curious and full of life. And he was all of those things and much more.

Sharon Kemble

Daniel was full of life. He loved to ride dirt bikes and play basketball. He also loved to get milkshakes with his son, Daniel. Daniel was the one everyone would call to come help if they had a problem or a fight. Daniel could either talk or fight his way out of a situation. I told him over and over to stop picking up for people, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

The night of July 2, 2015, two boys were robbed at the park located on the corner of my street. Daniel and I were outside talking while he took apart a piece on his motorcycle. We heard the gunshot, and a few minutes later, they walked up to us. Twelve hours later my son was dead! He went to try to get back the boys’ phones. As he walked into the killer’s path, he shot him once in the hip, paused, then put two more in his back. My son didn’t even make it to the hospital. Now my grandson, daughter and I are heartbroken forever. A medium told me my son told him to tell me, “I should have listened to you!”

Bunny

On May 26, 2016, Birdell Beeks became an innocent bystander to gun violence in north Minneapolis, Minnesota. Birdell was my mother. On that spring day, Birdell was driving with her 16-year-old daughter. They were waiting at a stop sign to make a left turn when Birdell’s granddaughter noticed a man on a hill with a gun. The granddaughter screamed to her grandmother, “Duck! He has a gun!” But it was too late. The armed man had already begun discharging his gun at another vehicle passing in the area. He did not care that there were innocent people driving by or that there were innocent people walking down the street. He opened fire, emptying his entire clip! One of his bullets hit Birdell Beeks in the arm. When paramedics arrived, Birdell was holding on. Her granddaughter was distraught, lost and confused as she had just heard what would be the last words she would ever hear her grandmother say: “Baby they got me!” Birdell died while in surgery.

Since that day, Birdell’s daughter, Bunny Beeks, has fought tirelessly as an advocate for other families in Minneapolis who have lost their lives to gun violence.