A young anti-violence advocate was shot and killed in her home Monday, The Independent reports.
Sandra Parks, 13, was vocal about ending gun violence in her Wisconsin community. While in fourth grade, she wrote a prize-winning essay in which she lamented her city was “in a state of chaos” in part because “little children are victims of senseless gun violence.”
Parks followed that essay with an appeal for peace during an appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio last year, NPR reports.
The middle schooler addressed listeners across the state and said, “All you hear about is somebody dying and somebody getting shot. People do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson was just killed.”
Parks’ mother and sister were present when she was hit with the bullet that took her life.
“She just walked into the room and said, ‘Mama, I’m shot,’” her sister Tatiana Ingram said. “She was only hit one time, in her chest. The bullet wasn’t even for her.”
It isn’t clear for whom the bullet was meant. Parks was in her bedroom when two men, Isaac Barnes and Untrell Oden, began shooting. Police recovered a pistol and rifle from their home and found casings from the firearms matched those recovered from outside Parks’ home.
Both men have been charged with first-degree reckless homicide.
Ingram said her sister took the shot with amazing calm, “like a soldier.”
The girl’s mother, Bernice Parks, said that sort of grace was very much like her, telling reporters the 13-year-old “was everything this world is not.”
“My baby did not like violence,” the mother said. “She was my angel from the time she was in my womb to the time she came out.”
According to Bernice Parks, her daughter was the 12th Milwaukee Public Schools student killed this year. The city’s mayor, Tom Barrett, alluded to this in his statement on Parks’ death; he called her accidental shooting “part of the insanity we see in Milwaukee.”
The mayor added, “I look at where we are now as a city, and it breaks my heart to stand here. As a dad, it breaks my heart.”
Activists are calling for a change to avoid more broken hearts.
“We have to change the culture,” Tory Lowe, a community organizer, said at a vigil for Parks. “We can no longer live in neighborhoods where these children cannot go outside or cannot go and stay in the house.”
Before her death, Parks argued a similar point, calling on individuals to bridge divides to reduce the epidemic of violence.
“We must not allow the lies of violence, racism and prejudice to be our truth,” Parks wrote. “Instead of passing each other like ships in the night, we must fight until our truths stretch to the ends of the world.”
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