Ka (Joe)

My brother Joe was a car enthusiast. He was a natural-born leader. He was goal-oriented and resilient—a friend and confidant to many.

Joe broke a lot of barriers before he was killed at age 22. He became a young father at age 17. He was a young but loving father to his daughter, Kayleen, and hardworking husband to his wife, Gina, also 22. His daughter was his world, his motivation. Everything he did was for his little family.

On May 13, 2018, the night of Mother’s Day, he was shot dead in the living room of Gina’s parents home. They were simply celebrating his mother-in-law and all the other moms of the family, including Gina.

In a split second, our whole world shattered. Not only did we lose a brother, son and friend, we also lost his wife, Gina, and daughter Kayleen, who was only five years old. A whole family, gone.

Our pain exists to remind us of all the love they can no longer receive. They are truly missed.

Ka (Kayleen)

Kayleen, my niece, was the energy in the room—wise and intelligent beyond her tender age of five. Anyone who spent one minute with her immediately loved her because of her electric energy and quirky comments! Kayleen has sass, and she owned it.

She loved her animals, specifically dogs and horses; she believed they were her “bestest” friends. She was eager and well-prepared to start kindergarten in the fall.

However, on May 13, 2018, as she was celebrating Mother’s Day with her mom, Gina (22), and dad, Joe (22), in her grandma’s living room, a gunman decided to shoot into the living room full of her loved ones, killing her dad, her mom and herself.

We will never know what she could’ve grown up to be, or how her energy and spunk could have healed to this world. We were stripped of that privilege that night, and all we are left with is pain.

They are deeply missed, always.

Brandy

I grew up in a home with child abuse and gun violence. I was eight when my mother shot my father; she did it again after that. No one came to check on us four kids; no charges were made, even after the second time.

When I was 15, my mother put a gun to my stomach when a sheriff’s deputy drove up. As she had shot my father twice, I always believed she would have pulled the trigger. The state was South Carolina; there wasn’t help for kids caught up in gun violence then.

I’m in therapy now for this, as well as for the gun violence in childhood.

Jeani Garcia

On August 24, 2012, I came home from work and found my 17-year-old son, Kareem Fedd, lying cold and lifeless in his bed. His nose and mouth were bloody, and he looked as if he were sleeping.

At that moment, I had no idea that my son had been shot multiple times as he slept in his own bed. It wasn’t until we got to the hospital, and the emergency room team of doctors notified me that my son had succumbed to his injuries, that I asked, “What injuries?” and they said, “multiple gunshots.” I was in shock—still am, most days.

It took five years and 11 months before an arrest was made; it was a rival gang member who murdered my son. The investigation was led by me. I have learned so much about a failed system—more like a system designed for the children in my community to fail! It’s either from the cradle to the cage or the cradle to the grave.

I have become a credible messenger with Zero Youth Violence, a nonprofit organization in my community, president of the Ortiz Ark Foundation and the founder of Mother2Mother Inc, a support group.

Vernon Eddins Jr. “Shine a Light on Bullying”

My 14-year-old son, Vernon Eddins Jr., was murdered by gang members on December 21, 2007. It was senseless gun violence due to bullying. He and his friends were bullied for over a year by this same gang of older boys … My son,Vernon, was not in a gang.

On the day of my son’s murder, he cut school to walk home a younger child that was being bullied and assaulted by this same gang of older boys. Vernon and his friends did just that and then stood at the bus stop, going to the movies on this last day of school before winter break. He was approached and shot in the heart and died on the grounds of the junior high school he had attended the year before.

Vernon was such a loving kid, as well as a prankster … Pranking was an everyday part of life for him. My son was so funny, smart and loving, and losing him was the hardest thing that I’ve ever faced. It’s still so unbelievable, 13 years later.

Since Vernon’s murder, I’ve founded a nonprofit organization bringing awareness to bullying, and helping our youth and their families with identifying and reporting bullying. Mommy loves you, baby boy.

Makadoo

Nine months and 18 days after Makenna Jo was born, we were getting ready for a trip to the zoo that never happened. On February 21, 2010, while sitting in her high chair, Makenna was shot in the face by her father. Her father, a USMC combat veteran, suffered from PTSD. He was hypervigilant about security, and one of the ways that manifested was by practicing “dry firing.”

His new Glock had a round in the chamber that day, however. He negligently discharged a round and shot and killed my daughter. He subsequently spent time in prison. Our family ripped apart.
Ten years later, I’m not the person I was then. I love harder, forgive quicker and empathize deeper. I’m a better person, but my little person is gone. Who was she to be?

Anonymous

On the last day I saw you, you told me you liked my glasses. We talked about the classes you were taking next year, and I made fun of you for taking debate. At the end of the period, we said goodbye. I didn’t realize it was goodbye forever. I miss you. I love you.

RM Griego

I deeply miss my brother’s deep, barking laugh, complete with a silly grin and sparkling eyes. My heart aches when I think of him and his wife, of my gregarious nephew (age 9), lovable niece (age 5), and my baby angel of a niece, with the biggest brown eyes (age 2). The sorrow never ends.

The call came around 1 a.m. that mid-January Sunday morning. “Auntie Gina, is it true! Is my dad and the family dead?” It was my niece, who had seen a Facebook post about the deaths. This story is about a perfect storm that took five of my family members, all victims of gun violence committed by my troubled nephew. This happened eight years ago, and it changed my life and the lives of many, forever.

I wish I had been more vigilant about what was happening in my brother’s home, including the fact that he kept six guns and ample ammunition, all bought through private sale, all unsecured and therefore accessible to any of his four children.

The ripple effect of gun violence is devastating. I am convinced that my family members would still be alive today if those firearms had been stored securely.

Liz Hjelmseth

I was 8 years old when my 16-year-old brother shot me. He didn’t shoot me because he hated me. He didn’t shoot me because he wanted to kill me or even hurt me. I was shot because in a moment of anger and frustration, my brother was able to access an improperly stored gun. My family, like so many others, didn’t see a danger in having unsecured guns because we held false beliefs.

We believed that if there was quality gun safety training, and if adults modeled safe gun handling, that a responsible teenager could have unrestricted access to guns. LIE

We believed that if the rules were strict enough and the punishment harsh enough, kids would comply and never use a gun in an unsafe way. LIE

We believed that nothing bad could happen to our family because we loved each other, we sat down to dinner together every night and we kept up with what was happening. LIE

There is only one belief you should hold, one truth, when it comes to guns in your home. To keep everyone safe, they need to be stored properly: locked up, with the ammunition stored separately.

Jackie, GiGi, & Fluff

On February 27, 2019, Jackie and both of her children, GiGi and Fluff, were murdered in their home in an act of family annihilation committed by Jacqui’s boyfriend of 13 years. Naturally, her family was devastated.

As we navigated through what would soon become our new normal, we learned that on the night of the murders, the perpetrator attacked Jackie, beating her beyond recognition. Based on the evidence and testimony from a family member of the perpetrator, it is our belief that after being beaten, Jackie was running upstairs either to get away, or to get to a phone to call someone. It was as she was running up the stairs that she was shot in the back and left to die at the top of the stairwell. After such a heinous act, the perpetrator then contacted his family member and allowed her to listen as he shot both of his children once in the side of the head, killing each of them instantly.

It is our hope that by sharing the story of Our 3, we will be able to shine a light on the devastation that gun violence leaves in this country.