It's a horrific crime: the killing of a child. In St. Louis in 2019, it's been repeated again and again. Since Memorial Day weekend, nine children have been killed by gun violence in the city. All of the victims have been black.
As part of Children Under Fire, an ongoing series examining the reasons for the shootings and providing insight into how communities are affected, St. Louis Public Radio will tell the stories of the shooting victims.
We hope to not add more names to this list, but recognize it may be necessary to do so.
While there have been more child homicides in St. Louis in 2019 than are listed in our story, we decided to focus on victims known to have been killed by gun violence since the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend.
We have not included accidental shootings or homicide by other means. While the police continue to investigate most of these cases, it seems likely that these children were not intended targets, but rather were caught in the crossfire.
Readers may note that we have more information about some of the victims than others.
If, upon reading any of these profiles, readers would like to provide more insight into the children's lives, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org. — The Editors
Teachers knew Sentonio Cox as the best kind of leader, a charismatic kid who thrived as co-captain of his middle school basketball team.
"He drew other students and other people to him," said Keiler Swartz, a science teacher and head coach for Lyon Academy at Blow, Sentonio's school. "He could be one I could rely on. That was both on the court and in the classroom."
Swartz said Sentonio wanted to play college basketball and eventually compete as a pro.
Teachers could enlist Sentonio when they wanted help to get a class quiet and focused, Swartz said. He worked hard and didn't give up. But he was goofy, too — a social kid who liked to hang out with his friends.
In an online memory book, mourners wrote that Sentonio was "outgoing," had "sarcastic humor" and was "fun to be around."
His mother, Roxzyanna Edwards, found her 15-year-old son lying dead in a yard on Aug. 25. Police say a man shot Sentonio while he backed away with his hands up. Police charged Joseph Renick, 54, and Brian Lee Potter, 47, with the murder.
Sentonio was the second of Edwards' children shot within two years.
"I really can't explain," Roxzyanna told KSDK. "It's like a nightmare that you can't get over, like a bottomless pit."
Sentonio's grandmother, Veronica Edwards, wrote that he "didn't even get to live life yet," in a GoFundMe to cover funeral costs for the family.
Sentonio is survived by four siblings, including a twin, Antonio.
"I don't know how I feel. He was everything I had. I tried, but I didn't try harder. I wish I could. I wish I was with him, but I'm not," Antonio said at a memorial march, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Swartz said that Antonio may step into Sentonio's leadership role on the sports teams, to honor his brother.
"Sentonio was a leader in this school community, on that team," Swartz said. Sentonio's death is "a huge loss for a lot of these students and for this faculty and staff." — Kae Petrin
Going to watch the preseason football jamboree at Soldan High School was a reward for Jurnee Thompson's good start to the school year.
The middle child in the Thompson family, 8-year-old Jurnee was the big sibling at Herzog Elementary School now that older sister, Shardea, is in middle school. She had to look out for her little sister, Zha'lia.
Jurnee's teachers said she was no longer a classic middle child when she showed up for the third grade two weeks earlier.
"Jurnee took on that big sister role, which was awesome," said Herzog Principal Oluyemisi Folarin. "She definitely stepped up to the plate."
Her classmates remember how Jurnee liked math, and to crawl under teacher Mary Wright's desk during reading time.
"She kept our class going," Wright said.
After no reports of misbehavior from teachers, her father, Rasheed Thompson, gave his permission. Jurnee hugged him and kissed him, and went off to the football jamboree with her 16-year-old cousin, Jason Adams.
After the event came to an end on Friday, Aug. 23, several fights broke out as fans left the stadium. Jurnee, Jason and friend Mason Hawkins, 16, were up the street waiting for food from Harold's Chop Suey when, shortly after 8 p.m., bullets tore through their young bodies.
Jurnee's wound was fatal. Jason and Mason have missed school at McKinley High School recovering from their injuries. A 64-year-old woman was shot in the leg. No one has been arrested or charged with the crime.
Thompson remembered his daughter as a helper and a loving child at her vigil a few days later.
"Since Jurnee been gone, the house just seems like a ghost town," he said. "It's not the same." — Ryan Delaney
Jason Eberhart Jr. was a fun-loving teenager who loved to tell jokes and was always ready for a footrace.
“He was so funny, he had a great sense of humor and he could turn anything into a joke,” said Tamala Merritt, who taught him in elementary school. “I can remember lots of times when I would want the mood of the class to be serious, and yet he would have a way to kind of lighten the mood.”
Jason was shot and killed a few days after he transferred from Kirkwood High School to Soldan High School where he would have been a junior. St. Louis Metropolitan police officers found Jason’s body Aug. 18 in the Carr Square neighborhood of north St. Louis.
Jason attended Tillman Elementary School, where Merritt taught him in the first and fifth grades.
Merritt said Jason was a popular student who excelled in math and was a fast runner. One of her favorite memories was racing him every Friday afternoon.
“He was probably the fastest kid in first grade but I would always challenge him to a race and I would always beat him,” Merritt said. “At the beginning of fifth grade, we started racing again. The races were always closer, and it got to the point where we looked forward to Friday afternoons.”
Merritt also taught Jason’s younger brother and has a strong relationship with his parents. Merritt said she will always remember how supportive and strong the Eberhart family is.
Merritt said she was stunned when she heard that Jason had died.
“When it became evident that it was true, I just remember feeling like this is such a shame that a young, beautiful, brilliant boy doesn’t get to grow up and live his life,” Merritt said. “Being a teacher and being in a community of people who loved him, it was really nice to have action steps to say, ‘let's support the family, let's support the siblings.’”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help his family pay for funeral and burial expenses. — Chad Davis
Xavier Usanga was outside his family's home on North 14th Street when he was shot and killed on Aug. 12. The 7-year-old boy was on his way back from a neighbor's house.
Xavier was with two of his sisters when he was shot.
"One of the things that my 12-year-old daughter Angel said, 'Mom, I noticed that shortly after the gunfire stopped, the sky got all dark and I could hear some thunder and it got real quiet and it got real loud,'" said Dawn Usanga, Xavier's mother. "She's like, 'I think that God is really mad that Xavier died.'"
Xavier was the youngest of Dawn Usanga's six children and her last living son. She said one of her sons died years ago during childbirth. Her other son died at 13 months of the flu.
The family's memories of Xavier live on.
Precious Usanga, Xavier's 18-year-old sister, recalls recent summer trips to the St. Louis Zoo with Xavier as a special memory. She also remembers the plays he would participate in at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church at Christmastime, but her favorite memory was when Xavier was 5.
"One time I was making a cake," Precious said. "He kept running away from me because he wanted to lick it off himself."
Precious said Xavier was an optimist, someone who always had a smile on his face and whose main goal was to make others happy. Ifiok Usanga, Xavier's father, said that at 7 years old, Xavier already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"He liked to watch the games that people would play on YouTube," Ifiok Usanga said. "He wanted to be a YouTuber."
The Usanga family has set up a GoFundMe page, and part of the funds will go toward an urn. Dawn Usanga said that urn will commemorate Xavier and his two brothers.
"I don't know if it's better that he went at 7 as the victim, or if he might've been the one to grow up by 23 as the offender," Dawn Usanga said. "We don't know what these streets are doing to our kids."
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, prosecutors say Malik Ross, 23, admitted to firing a gunshot that killed Xavier, but he has not been charged. — Chad Davis
Eddie Hill IV was a "one-of-a-kind" student who was "wise beyond his years" and an "old soul," said Rashida Chatman, his elementary school teacher at Pamoja Preparatory Academy at Cole.
Chatman taught Eddie, 10, last year as a fourth grader and was expecting to have him in her fifth grade class this year. But Eddie's life ended on July 20, as he was sitting on his front porch with his father and other adults.
No one else was injured when a car drove by and opened fire on the group sitting outside Eddie's front door around 8:30 p.m., according to several news reports. Chatman said Eddie loved math and music — and was brilliant.
Despite being one of the youngest students in her class — Eddie had skipped a grade — he was a student leader. Eddie intended to run for class president this school year, she said.
"Other students wanted to be scholarly because of him," Chatman said. "Students called him the 'old man' even though he was the baby of the class."
Chatman said Eddie was honorable in addition to being an academic wonder. He wanted students and teachers to be treated with respect. He wanted his peers to feel like they could be themselves. He chastised students who bullied one another. He was also the first to admit when he had made a mistake and was honest about his shortcomings.
Eddie wasn't always serious. He was playful and sociable, too, Chatman said. He often broke out in song in the classroom. He knew music from lots of different genres and eras. One of his favorite songs was "Juicy," by the Notorious B.I.G.
Eddie's classmates are devastated by his loss. Chatman said they have been making collages about Eddie and writing him thank-you letters. The school has also erected an altar of Eddie's favorite things in one of the classrooms, she said. So far, no one has been charged in Eddie's death. — Julie O'Donoghue
Davaun Winters was shot to death inside a vehicle July 15 near a gas station in south city.
Davaun, 17, lived on California Avenue in south St. Louis for several years with his mother. Neighbors said that they were close and that Davaun was polite and well-behaved.
"He played football in the street and stuff as a kid. Never did he get into any trouble," said Tamara King, who lives across the street from the house Davaun shared with his mom. "He wasn't the type that had a bad word to say."
Davaun had a large birthday party when he turned 16. His family bought him a car as a gift, King said.
After Davaun's death, a crowd of teenagers converged on his house to mourn him for several days, his neighbors said. Several neighbors said Davaun's mother hasn't returned to the house in weeks.
According to Davaun's Facebook page, he had attended Confluence Preparatory Academy. The school has not confirmed whether he was a student there.
So far, no one has been charged in Davaun's death. — Julie O'Donoghue
Derrel Lamont Williams, 15, died of gunshot wounds on June 26.
Police found Derrel with multiple gunshot wounds in the Kingsway East neighborhood on June 25. He died in a hospital the next day, police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
On social media, Derrel told jokes, admired Air Jordan sneakers and often wished for a girlfriend.
Friends and family could not be reached for this profile.
No one has been charged in his death to date. — Kae Petrin
Kennedi Powell was 3 years old when a drive-by gunman shot her in the chest in front of her grandmother's home on Michigan Avenue in south St. Louis.
"Every time I look out that window, that's all I can see is her laying there," Tracy Wafford, Kennedi's grandmother, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kennedi was in a group of neighborhood children playing outside on the evening of June 9 in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Her mother and father were passing out slices of pizza to the children when shots rang out from a passing car.
"Baby wasn't nothing but 3 years old," Wafford told Fox2Now. "She didn't deserve that. She got shot in her chest. She didn't deserve that. She was just out here playing."
Only Kennedi and a 6-year-old neighbor were struck by bullets. The neighbor, Oriel Finley, recovered from her injuries and returned home the following day.
"Ken Ken died," Oriel said in an interview with KSDK. "She got shot in the chest. That makes me sad. She's not coming back. She's up there with Jesus."
Kennedi's family said she was "smart, funny, outspoken, and loved to be outdoors playing" in a GoFundMe fundraiser for funeral services. "She was a special gift to this world and is now a special gift that God has claimed back."
Family and neighbors held a vigil for Kennedi and built a memorial for her out of stuffed animals in front of her grandmother's home. Philicia Burrage, Kennedi's father's cousin, told KSDK that the family has lost multiple people to gun violence over the past four years.
"The kids just want to play," Burrage said. "That's all they ever want to do. What do we tell them?"
So far, no one has been charged in Kennedi's death. — Lindsay Toler
Jashon Johnson knew he was late with his Mother's Day gift. It was already June when he called his mom, Lashanda Johnson, to say he was coming over to give it to her.
"He was like, 'Ma, I still got it. I love you, girl. I'm on my way,'" Johnson remembers. "And I didn't hear anything else from him."
She got a phone call at 5 the next morning. Jashon was dead at 16 years old — shot and killed overnight just northwest of Fairground Park.
"I didn't want to believe it," Johnson told St. Louis Public Radio. "Anybody who knows my son, they know him from the kindness and the smile. If I could have just got to meet that smile one more time."
Jashon was good with his hands, his mother said. He could draw, fix cars and repair things around the house. When neighbors or church friends needed repair work, Jashon was there to do it. "If he couldn't fix it, he was going to find a way to fix it," Johnson said.
Jashon, known by the nickname Jay-Jay, wanted to go to college and become an architect, he told his mother. Since his death, Johnson has relied on her sisters and nieces for emotional support.
"We still have our days of crying," she said.
She says she wants justice for her son, but so far, the investigation into his death hasn't found much. "Too many contradictory stories," Johnson said. "There's just too much crime out here."
Johnson doesn't know what came of her Mother's Day gift: He told her he got a "Mother's Day wallet," with two gift certificates inside.
So far, no one has been charged in Jashon's death. — Lindsay Toler
Kristina Curry was 16 years old when she was shot and killed outside Roosevelt High School in Tower Grove East. Police believe she was shot between late at night on May 22 and early morning on May 23. Her body was found on May 23.
Kristina was a student at Roosevelt. Antony Perkins is the family and community specialist at the school and taught Kristina during her freshman year. He said he was leaving the wake of another student when he learned Kristina was the victim of the shooting.
"I went to the wake to represent the school and on the way back, one of my co-workers called and told me who it was," Perkins said. "I had to pull over because I was so overwhelmed and shocked."
Kristina could always be found writing, Perkins said. She would write down poetry and raps in a journal that she would carry around frequently.
Perkins said he continues to remember Kristina and honor her memory.
"I have her picture as one of my screen savers," Perkins said. "She will always be a part of my heart."
Perkins said Kristina was planning to move to Texas in the near future. He remembers when she shared the news with him. Perkins said after she told him, they would joke about blocking the train station so she could stay.
"I just want people to realize who they are hurting," Perkins said. "I just can't imagine how someone would be able to even live with themselves, let alone go to sleep at night knowing they've done such a thing."
Kristina would have turned 17 in July. A representative from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said the investigation into Curry's death is ongoing. — Chad Davis
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