While we march against po­lice bru­tal­ity, guns are killing our chil­dren

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - MARY MITCHELL mmitchell@sun­times.com | @MaryMitche­l­lCST

It is unimag­in­able to me. Caleb Reed, a teen cel­e­brated for his ac­tivism on the is­sue of re­mov­ing po­lice from Chicago Pub­lic Schools, was ac­ci­den­tally killed by his friend, Gen­ove Martin, who was al­legedly aim­ing at some­one else, pros­e­cu­tors say.

On July 31, in the early af­ter­noon, Reed was walk­ing in the 1900 block of West Granville Av­enue with a group that in­cluded Martin and two oth­ers when a gray Chevro­let Mal­ibu “slowly rolled past,” and the shoot­ing started.

Sur­veil­lance video showed the teens “run­ning” and “duck­ing” and Martin al­legedly fir­ing a weapon at the ve­hi­cle, pros­e­cu­tors said.

“He turns his shoul­ders and kind of fires right over his shoul­der with both hands,” As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney James Mur­phy said.

But in­stead of Martin hit­ting his en­e­mies, the bul­let struck Reed in the fore­head, Mur­phy said.

On Tues­day, Martin, 18, was charged with first-de­gree mur­der in his 17-year-old friend’s death.

He is be­ing held on a $300,000 bail. If con­victed, Martin could face life in prison.

It is unimag­in­able to me.

Martin at­tended Reed’s funeral and a me­mo­rial bal­loon re­lease hon­or­ing his friend.

Those acts un­der­score the fu­til­ity of ask­ing shoot­ers to turn them­selves in. Gun vi­o­lence is now be­ing en­dured in too many com­mu­ni­ties as a fact of life.

Sadly, in July when this tragedy oc­curred, it was widely re­ported that Reed “was found on a side­walk with a gun­shot wound to the head … and no one was in cus­tody.” Where was his tribe?

The po­lice — the very peo­ple that so many young peo­ple are dis­parag­ing as the en­emy of Black peo­ple — had to track down Reed’s killer by piec­ing to­gether sur­veil­lance videos.

This tragedy also coun­ters the myths many of us hold about the young Black men who com­mit these hor­ren­dous acts and the peo­ple who are tak­ing so many of these Black lives.

Many of us can re­cite the names of the lat­est Black man or woman killed un­jus­ti­fi­ably by po­lice of­fi­cers.

The pain of these killings weigh heav­ily on the hearts of many, ir­re­spec­tive of race and eth­nic­ity, as is ev­i­denced by the pro­test­ers in Kenosha de­mand­ing change in the wake of the bru­tal po­lice shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake.

But the names of the hun­dreds of in­no­cent Black men, women and chil­dren who have been killed in our com­mu­ni­ties are for­got­ten as soon as the cam­eras are turned off. It is unimag­in­able. Martin doesn’t have a crim­i­nal back­ground that would sug­gest he was headed in the wrong di­rec­tion.

He was on his way to col­lege, was in­volved in sports and had per­formed com­mu­nity ser­vice.

But like too many of his peers, he was also a vic­tim of gun vi­o­lence, hav­ing sur­vived a shoot­ing in Novem­ber.

This tragedy rep­re­sents such a waste of hu­man po­ten­tial that we should all be stunned.

On a hot sum­mer day, a gun took one promis­ing life and changed an­other for­ever.

Gun own­ers will ar­gue it wasn’t the gun that killed Reed. It was the shooter. And that is true. But guns have be­come such a part of our cul­ture, we are no longer shocked by the car­nage they cause.

“What hap­pened to Caleb is not a unique sit­u­a­tion,” said Voices of Youth in Chicago Ed­u­ca­tion (VOYCE) in a state­ment on Tues­day.

“The tragic ac­tion that led to Caleb’s death is un­de­ni­ably a call to in­vest in Black Lives,” the of­fi­cials said.

But we can’t pro­tect Black lives when they can be so eas­ily taken.

I’m re­minded of a woman I re­cently met by chance.

We were wait­ing at a nail sa­lon, and we were both im­pa­tient.

I was get­ting ready for my daugh­ter’s wed­ding. She was get­ting ready for a nephew’s funeral.

He was only 19 and wait­ing at a bus stop along with a 72-yearold woman. A car pulled up, and some­one in­side the ve­hi­cle fired. The 72-year-old woman sur­vived. The 19-year-old did not.

I don’t think the shoot­ing even made the news.

Imag­ine this.

What would have hap­pened if no one in Reed’s group had a gun when the Mal­ibu rolled up? Would Reed still be alive? Would his friend, Martin, be on his way to col­lege?

Or have we fi­nally got­ten to the point where not hav­ing a gun is unimag­in­able?



Caleb Reed, a ju­nior at Mather High School in West Ridge, speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence out­side City Hall in June. He was fa­tally shot a month later.

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