Detroit shootings strike 3 kids as victims' walk takes on crime

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
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Tawanna Rankin remembers when she got the call that her daughter, Jada Rankin, was shot in Oct. 16, 2016.

The Sterling Heights mother was stunned, confused about how a birthday party for her son in Detroit could have dissolved into a shooting.

She rushed to Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit. Jada, 15, died shortly after.

“A driver came up the street,” Rankin said. “My son asked him to slow down. He didn’t take well to what my son said to him. He opened his car door and shot into the crowd and the one bullet — one bullet — struck Jada.”

Rankin was among those who turned out for a Victim Awareness Walk in Clark Park on Sunday. The mother of four started Justice for Jada and turned her grief into action: She tries to help other shooting victims cope and sponsors events in Jada’s name. She was at the walk, she said, as a guest speaker “to tell Jada’s story.”

“I see women, mothers — they hurt, they are in pain,” she said after the walk. “They don’t know how to move the right foot in front of the left foot. ... It’s not about going to any of these therapy classes. ... It’s about who can support you, who can see your pain. Sometimes I just need to cry.”

The Victim Awareness Walk followed a round of violence beginning Thursday that involved three children under the age of 18 in Detroit, which capped an Easter weekend that saw six people killed and 15 shot, the most violent weekend in Detroit this year. Two of the children last week were ages 3 and 7, Detroit police said.

The shootings prompted one police commissioner to plan a town hall forum for the community to talk about violence and easy access to guns.

The shootings of children and young people present a disturbing picture for police of safety in the city.

“When a child is shot, it creates a perception that crime is out of control,” said Detroit police Chief James Craig. 

A 16-year-old boy was  hospitalized for his injuries and released after being shot in his leg  Sunday morning on the border between Detroit and Southfield.. The shooting took place at 5 a.m. Sunday on Shiawassee, when the victim left the Embassy Suites hotel in Southfield. He heard a gunshot and realized he’d been shot in his  leg, police say.

 The victim called a family member, who picked him up and drove him to an area hospital, police said.

Southfield police are investigating. 

On Saturday, a 3-year-old girl was shot in the head at the Citgo gas station at Livernois and Puritan, on the city’s west side. She remained in critical condition.

Assistant Chief Arnold Williams said several shots were fired when two individuals got into an argument inside the gas station and continued outside. 

“At one point the two males started to fight one another and escalated when one of the males went to his vehicle and retrieved a fire arm and fired several shots,” said Williams. 

A suspect was arrested.

A 7-year-old boy was shot in the neck Thursday night on the 11000 block of Chelsea Avenue.

Craig said the shooter fired at least 13 rounds from an assault rifle and two of the rounds missed the target house and went into the next block, where the child was struck. That shooting, Craig said, stemmed from a love triangle. A person of interest was in police custody.

The violence, Craig said, is a “stark reminder that there’s a lot more to do” in curbing crime in the city. 

“It affects me the way it affects everyone who lives in the city,” Craig said. “When someone can’t handle a dispute and goes right to a gun, we have problems.”

Quick arrests were made in the shootings affecting victims under the age of 10.

“(Quick arrests) send a message,” Craig said. “It says the days are gone when someone can do this with no sanctions.”

When children are shot, Craig said, police receive tips from the community. 

“People are going to call us,” Craig said. “We will get tips. There’s a code in the street that (shooting children) is something you just don’t do.”

Craig said that during a visit last year to a middle school in Detroit, he asked how many students had known victims of gun violence. About 75 percent of the students raised their hands.

The violence leaves a number of youth with post-traumatic stress, he said.

“... They become desensitized to violence,” he said.

Police Commissioner Willie Burton said that in response to the recent violence against young people in Detroit, he will be holding a community town hall meeting on April 21 at the Elmwood Park Church of Christ at 2001 Antietam. 

Detroit’s gun violence, Craig and Burton said Sunday, often features mental health issues.. Burton said easy access to guns is a problem.

Two years ago, after 5-year-old Mariah Davis fatally shot herself with a gun found in her grandmother’s bedroom, Burton urged Detroiters to get gun free locks  from  police precincts.

“No child should have access to a gun,” Burton said Sunday. “No child should be struck by a bullet from a gun.”

The April 21 town hall will encourage residents to talk about  solutions to gun violence in the city’s neighborhoods.

 The solutions, Burton said, can’t  come only from law enforcement.

“How can the police police stupidity?” he said. 

Schools, courts and the public will have to weigh in, Craig said.

“We’re just one cog,” Craig said. “It is bigger than just the police.”


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