Veronica Hendrix

*The word senseless should always preface the word violence.

Inane, abhorrent, despicable are words that seen fitting as well; particularly in reference to the recent shooting of 5-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. on Halloween day in South Los Angeles.

Authorities say the shooting happened about 2:00 p.m. Little Aaron had just suited up in his Spiderman costume and sprinted into his backyard to flex and pose for his grandfather, uncle and cousins. He was no doubt excited about going trick or treating. It’s the one time of year kids get a pass on gorging themselves on candy. Little Aaron, like most children, was anxious about scoring a bounty full of goodies on that much anticipated day that would earn top bragging rights for “best candy” at school the  following day.

But it was not so for Aaron. When errant shots pieced the afternoon sky, out of nowhere one struck the Spiderman clad lad in the back of the head. The fatal bullet was discharged by an alleged gang member from the alley just behind their home. Eight hours later little Aaron was pronounced dead after a valiant attempt by doctors to save his young life.

It is an unthinkable slaughter of the most vulnerable souls in our community. Yet it happens in urban communities too often to bear. It has been some years since a tragedy has impaled my soul and sheared my mind as this one has. In fact the last one was in 2001.

Lest we forget it also happened in South Los Angeles the day after Thanksgiving. Twelve-year-old Harry Hinds was playing video games on the floor of his room with a friend. Harry’s mom heard a series of gun shots ring out against the still night. The shots felt chillingly close she recalled. When she went to his room to check on her son, she found him lifeless. An errant bullet discharged from a now convicted gang member entered and exited Harry’s neck leaving him dead. It was the shot that impaled her life.

I knew Harry and after his untimely death, I saw how his family’s life was altered when that errant bullet ripped him away from them on that ill-fated day.

The community was grief stricken then. It is grief stricken now at the taking of young Aaron’s life. But it is also worn, tired, frustrated and angry. During a press conference with Aaron’s 25-year-old father Aaron Sr., and his Grandfather William Shannon, 55, we saw the immense pain of these two strong black men whose side-by-side presence now personifies the severed continuity of three generations caused by a single, senseless shoot.

“It’s not going to stop,” said Aaron’s father during the press conference, who ironically is studying law enforcement at a trade school. “This is the way people were brought up. It’s just their way of life.”  No one should have to suffer such a mortal loss and evisceration of their spirit and their hope at the hands of another.

The arrest of little Aaron’s alleged killers where announced at that same press conference. Thanks to a community that circled the wagons, the work of unrelenting gang intervention workers, and numerous tips, including tips from other alleged gang members, two young men – ages 18 and 21 – were arrested for Aaron’s killing.  Police believe the alleged gang members exacted the “random” act of violence against “innocents” in Aaron’s community as retribution for another shooting that occurred earlier this year. Once again the words senseless, inane, abhorrent and despicable rage from my soul.

I commend the community for coming forward against the long held belief that in this culture “snitches get stitches” and even a pine colored box. The message they sent is “you don’t get to discharge your guns in our neighbor and take the lives of our residents and have us roll over and play dead.”

The sense of hopeless felt by Aaron Sr. is real. But with actions of the community, we can pier over the divide and see a spark of hopefulness. It won’t bring his son back, but is signals a community is no longer willing to go back to business as usual.

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