Girl who wrote es­say on gun vi­o­lence shot to death

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

San­dra Parks knew too much about death, even at a young age.

“We are in a state of chaos. In a city in which I live, I hear and see ex­am­ples of chaos al­most ev­ery­day. Lit­tle chil­dren are vic­tims of sense­less gun vi­o­lence,” San­dra wrote two years ago about gun vi­o­lence in her Mil­wau­kee neigh­bor­hood.

San­dra called her es­say “Our Truth” — a sober­ing re­minder that, as she said, peo­ple’s poor choices and ha­tred have led to so much vi­o­lence. She wrote about try­ing to es­cape from the chaos, from the “black on black crime” that de­pressed her. Some­times she would put on her head­phones, she wrote, and let the mu­sic take her away. But she couldn’t es­cape from it. San­dra, 13, was in her bed­room when a bul­let fired from a gun out­side, aimed at no one in par­tic­u­lar, pierced a hole through her home and landed in her chest, of­fi­cials said. “Momma, I’m shot,” she told her mother. San­dra, the girl who called for peace and em­pa­thy, died Mon­day night.

“Trag­i­cally, her death was caused by some­one who just de­cided they were go­ing to shoot bul­lets into her house, and she’s dead,” Mil­wau­kee Mayor Tom Bar­rett said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have not said why gun­shots were fired at the home, a few miles north of down­town Mil­wau­kee.

Ber­nice Parks, San­dra’s mother, told po­lice she was awak­ened by gun­shots shortly be­fore 8 p.m., ac­cord­ing to a crim­i­nal com­plaint cited by the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel. She saw her daugh­ter bleed­ing on the floor.

“She said, ‘Momma, I’m shot. Call the po­lice,’ ” Parks told Fox af­fil­i­ate WITI, her voice break­ing as she sobbed. “I looked at her. She didn’t cry. She wasn’t hol­ler­ing. She was just so peaceful . ... She didn’t de­serve to leave this world like that.”

Po­lice ar­rested Isaac Barnes, 26, and Un­trell Oden, 27. They were walk­ing home from a store when Barnes be­gan to fire at no one in par­tic­u­lar, Oden told de­tec­tives, the Jour­nal Sen­tinel re­ported.

Au­thor­i­ties said Barnes’s ex-girl­friend told a po­lice of­fi­cer that she sus­pected he was in­volved in the shoot­ing. She was parked on a street near San­dra’s home when Barnes, masked and armed with a ri­fle, ap­proached her, the Jour­nal Sen­tinel re­ported.

“You lucky the kids are in the car. I was go­ing to fan you down,” Barnes said, the woman told po­lice.

Of­fi­cers searched the neigh­bor­hood and found Barnes and Oden hid­ing in a house a few blocks away. An AK-47 ri­fle was in a bed­room, and a hand­gun had been thrown in a kitchen trash can. Au­thor­i­ties say four shell cas­ings found out­side San­dra’s home were fired from the hand­gun, the Jour­nal Sen­tinel re­ported.

Barnes is charged with first-de­gree reck­less homi­cide with a dan­ger­ous weapon and en­dan­ger­ing safety. He and Oden, both felons, are also charged with il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of a gun.

In 2016, Mil­wau­kee Pub­lic Schools held an es­say con­test about Martin Luther King Jr. San­dra, then a sixth-grader, took third place. She chose to write about gun vi­o­lence be­cause the world had failed to live up to the civil rights leader’s dream, she said in an in­ter­view with Wis­con­sin Pub­lic Ra­dio.

“The world that we have be­come now is, like, that all you hear about is some­body dy­ing and some­body get­ting shot, and peo­ple do not just think about whose fa­ther, son or grand­daugh­ter or grand­son that was that you just killed,” San­dra said.

The teen, who was in eighth grade when she died, had hoped to go to col­lege to be a writer, her mother wrote in a GoFundMe page set up to help the fam­ily pay for memo­rial ser­vices.

“I never felt so lost,” Ber­nice Parks wrote on Face­book. “My chest feels like a (boul­der) is smash­ing down on my heart. I need peace. I lost my love.”

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