Children Under Fire | St. Louis Public Radio

Children Under Fire

Children Under Fire is an ongoing series examining how communities are affected when children are killed by gun violence. 

Since Memorial Day weekend, nine children have been killed by gun violence in the city. All of the victims have been black.

If, upon reading any of these stories, you would like to provide more insight into the children's lives, please email feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

Children Under Fire is a series examining how communities are affected when children are killed by gun violence.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 27 

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. 

To help students cope with environmental stressors, Emerson Academy offers therapy sessions, a specialized curriculum and a violence intervention program. Oct. 2, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Early this spring, Shamyia Ford Jennings, 17, walked with her cousin and a friend to a corner store in north St. Louis. Minutes later, she was in St. Louis Children’s Hospital with a bullet wound in left leg. Her friend had also been shot, in the foot. 

And a couple of summers ago, Devin Smith, 16, was playing basketball on the playground with family members when someone fired shots in his direction. His cousin was hit in the drive-by. 

Darren Seals, the founder of an anti-violence group called the Sankofa Unity Center, speaks on Sept. 24, 201 in favor of a bill that allocates about $5 million for a program called Cure Violence. The measure passed the public safety committee unanimously.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 3 with approval by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment

Funding to start a nationally recognized anti-violence program in St. Louis has cleared another hurdle. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which oversees the city’s budget, approved spending $5 million of the city’s $23 million surplus on Cure Violence. The vote on Thursday comes less than a week after the Board of Aldermen gave unanimous first-round approval to the money, and sets up a final board vote on Friday.

Tammy Riley poses for a photo with her granddaughter, Frankii, who never met her father.  Frank Sessions was shot and killed before she was born. (Sept. 28, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A portrait of Frank “Nitty” Sessions hangs on the wall at Nitty’s Salon 1 and Retail on Natural Bridge Road, high above the manicure station.

Tammy Riley’s daughter Tameya named the salon after her brother, who was shot and killed outside a north St. Louis bar in 2009. He was 24.

For Riley, her son’s photo is a constant reminder that his life was cut short. Superimposed on the image is a poem he wrote years earlier, “24 Things to Remember and One Thing to Never Forget.”

“Number 24 is, ‘Don’t ever forget, for even a day, just how much I do really love you,’” read his mother, though it’s clear she had the poem memorized.

Children Under Fire is a series examining how communities are affected when children are killed by gun violence.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ten children have been shot to death in St. Louis since Memorial Day weekend — more than the total number of young people killed by guns in all of 2018.

The cause of the increase has vexed police, researchers and those who work with victims of violence.

Cards classmates of Jurnee Thompson made after she was shot and killed in the second week of school. Jurnee, 8, was in third grade. Aug. 30, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Eddie Hill IV never showed up for the fifth grade. The 10-year-old was shot and killed enjoying his summer vacation from his front porch in the Lewis Place neighborhood, which borders the Central West End. 

His death has upended the school year for his former classmates at Pamoja Preparatory Academy at Cole. 

Eddie is one of a dozen children who have died in violence so far this year, part of a dizzying streak of young children being killed by bullets not meant for them, while doing things a kid is supposed to be doing in the summer: playing in the yard, eating pizza and going to football games.