PHILADELPHIA (October 11, 2021) — Gun violence is killing an increasing number of children and teenagers across America, leaving behind shattered dreams and devastated families.
Here are three of their stories:
SHAQUILLE BARBOUR, 18, OF PHILADELPHIA
Shineka and Joseph Barbour, of Philadelphia, laugh as they recall what a hurry their son was in to grow up, how he would draw a mustache on his face with eyeliner when he was younger, how he sometimes spoke in a fake deep voice.
They knew when the 11-pound boy was born that he was going to be a giant, so the couple named him after basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. Their Shaquille grew to nearly 6-foot-7, but they remember him as the little boy they nicknamed “mister” because he refused to smile at first.
“But man, when he did smile, it was just, it was something,” Joseph Barbour said.
Shaquille died after being shot 13 times on June 6, a week before his high school graduation, as he rode his bike home from the corner store. His family was having a get-together just a few feet away, and Shineka can’t shake the memory of her daughter trying desperately to hold Shaquille’s body together so they could get him to the hospital.
Shaquille had been planning to join the military, his parents said. At one time, he had been such a standout at football that neighbors thought he was destined for the NFL. He swore off the game after a boy he tackled had a seizure on the field.
“I know people say this all the time, but he really was a gentle giant,” Shineka said. “He looked so serious and he was such a big kid, but he was so affectionate and he just had this huge heart.”
She laughed, remembering how she and Shaquille got stuck at a traffic light not long ago. Two older women were crossing the street and hadn’t made it across it before the light turned green.
“He rolled down the window and yelled at them, ‘Look at you, still stopping traffic at your age!’” Shineka said. “They just laughed and did this little dance. It was so cute. And that’s who he was.”
No arrests have been made in Shaquille’s death, and police won’t discuss a possible motive.
The youngest kids saw the greatest rise in fatalities. Nearly 300 children ages 11 and younger were killed in 2020, about a 50% increase from the year before.
This year looks even worse. As of early September, firearm fatalities were up 13%, and more children and teens had been shot than at the same time last year, according to the archive.
Source: AP News and USA Today original articles used for this article.