Detroiters lament child’s slaying: ‘We’re tired of burying our babies’
It’s a recurring scene in Detroit: Community members, pastors, police and elected officials gather to grieve and express outrage over a slain child.
Those who assembled Thursday to mourn the Easter morning shooting death of 3-year-old A’Naiya Montgomery said they’re tired of the routine.
The man allegedly responsible for the shooting has been arrested — but that won’t stop someone else from committing the next tragedy, said Pastor Cory Chavis, chairman of the Detroit Community Clergy Alliance.
“I’ve been to rallies, marches, and done aftercare with parents — we should all be outraged. Even if the person who did this is in jail, we have to make a stand today, because the culture of violence still exists in this city,” Chavis said at a City Wide Peace Rally at the House of Help community center near A’Naiya’s home.
Police say the girl died of multiple gunshot wounds after a man kicked in the front door of her home in the 16800 block of Riverview on the city’s west side at 2:10 a.m. and opened fire. Two men, ages 39 and 26, also were injured, before the gunman ran away, police said.
Relatives told The Detroit News A’Naiya’s mother, Andrea Montgomery, knew the man, who had visited the home earlier that night.
The killing was the city’s 56th homicide of 2016, according to Detroit police crime data.
A 2014 Detroit News investigation found nearly 500 Detroit children have died in homicides since 2000, an average of nearly three dozen annually. The killing of children has continued since the series ran in February 2014:
■Seven-year-old India Williams was riding her bicycle on Charest near her northwest-side home Sept. 14, 2014, when she was hit by a stray bullet during a gunfight between the occupants of two cars.
■A Facebook dispute sparked an October 2014 shooting that ended with the death of 3-year-old Amiracle Williams.
■Chanell Berry and Ellen Garjo were playing with their Christmas presents Dec. 27, 2015, when someone opened fire on their house. Chanell, who would have celebrated her 8th birthday a few days later, was killed; Ellen also was shot, but recovered.
“We’re here to stand with yet another family who has lost a previous baby who had nothing to do with the events around her, because of cowards who have no regard for life,” Bishop James Williams, faith-based program manager for Crime Stoppers of Michigan, said Thursday.
“We’re tired of burying our babies. We’re tired of not being able to let our children play outside. This must stop.”
Chavis said A’Naiya’s mother was in too much pain to attend Thursday’s rally.
“Her heart is broken. You cannot imagine the hurt she’s going though ... she’s not at the point where she can have any discussion about this. The pain will never go away.”
Temora Moore, A’Naiya’s cousin, said the girl played at her house three days before she died. “She was eating chips and candy, and smiling.
“This is difficult, but we’ll get through this. We believe in God.”
Detroit Police Sgt. Edward Brannock, head of Gang Intelligence, which is under the umbrella of Operation Cease Fire, insisted police can’t stem the violence alone.
“I’ve been policing this city for 20 years, and what we’ve been doing obviously isn’t working,” said Brannock, flanked by several members of the gang unit. “The community has to be a part of this, and we’re here to show support the community, and let them know: We’ve got your back.”
A fund to help with funeral costs has been set up in the little girl's name at any Flagstar Bank.
Citizens, clergy and public officials should renew efforts to change the violent culture in many neighborhoods, Detroit City Councilman James Tate said.
“Many times when something like this happens, we come, we talk, we have a little bit of angst, and then we move on to the next thing. But enough is enough.”
Pastor Stacy Foster, Detroit police chaplain, said a culture change must start with every person.
“I want to issue a challenge to the men of this city to make sure your sons know the responsibility of being a man. And I want to challenge the women to make better decisions — to look at themselves with value.”
Brannock said he’s seen too many cases of children being killed. “This has to stop. We cannot have 3-year-old children being shot. It’s unacceptable.”