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Kids and Guns: When tragedy strikes next door and Milwaukee neighbors join in support

Yesterday, on Tuesday, June 18, a tragedy struck at the home of one of my neighbors. A precious 5 year-old boy had found a gun and accidentally killed himself.

It was a shock to my system. I had seen the child a few times, but did not really know the family because they live across the alley on the next street over. I posted something about the tragedy on Facebook before knowing the details of what happened for sure.

Later in the day, once the police left the scene, the hard part started. The extended family members were allowed into the house. It was extremely emotional for many of them. I saw this up close and personal. I saw them bring bloody items from the home.

The neighbors responded immediately. I grabbed black trash bags and gloves for them to dispose of the items. My next-door neighbor assisted with a larger trash bag and plastic to wrap the bloody sofa in. We worked with the family to help discard these items. I called my friend Sharlen Moore to give her husband Reggie Moore a heads up. Reggie is the director of the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention. Reggie and I are friends, and he was concerned about what happened. He called me right back and offered to come to the scene right away.

As we were cleaning up and talking with family members we noticed the multiple TV media outlets on the next block over. A story like this would be on all of the local news channels. Some family members were having a difficult time dealing with their emotions. To experience this type of tragedy does not put a person in a state of mind that makes them want to talk to anyone at all, let alone a TV reporter.

Reggie Moore showed up a short time later, telling the family and I that he had requested grief counselors to come and help the family. I asked him to contact the DPW to assist with the disposal of the blood filled couch. He called and later that evening they had removed the couch.

A couple of family members became upset and a verbal altercation took place. It was perfectly understandable considering the circumstances. Reggie and I intervened to help cool everyone down. We separated the individuals who were upset with one another. Someone assumed a fight was about to happen and called the police. By the time the first squad arrived we had already gotten the situation under control.

A second squad arrived to assist. Reggie and I spoke to the officers to let them know that nothing close to a fight had occurred, and that it was simply the emotions of losing this child that caused some family members to get angry.

I have to commend the four officers who arrived. They were very professional in how they dealt with the situation. I wish I knew their names. I would give them a personal shout out. The police get so much negative attention. I think that when they do their jobs well, they should be commended for a job well done. The department should be proud of the fact that these officers helped to defuse the situation, and provided a look at what officers who are level headed and well trained can do.

414 Life outreach and resource coordinator Chris Conley, and several of his team members, came out to support the family. The grief counselors arrived and spoke to family members offering assistance. Several family members expressed how helpful the support was. It was a great testament to what happens in our community when the news cameras are not there to agitate a situation. This tragedy could have easily escalated, but because members of the community and neighbors rallied around the family, the tragedy did not did become compounded.

It is rare that we hear these positive outcomes, of the after-effects from tragedies in our community. People who do not live in our community are quick to point the finger of blame and chastise the people involved. For those who did, I have a simple message. Stop it. Unless you are there, you do not really know what happened.

What we should do is look for how we can support the family first. They suffered a loss, we did not. They deserve to grieve in whatever way works for them. They deserve the compassion that should come naturally from us. Their grief and pain should not be interrupted by people blaming someone for what happened. We should be sending condolences and prayers as our first response to this tragedy.

Over the next few weeks, many people will discuss this tragedy along with the 5 year-old in Kenosha that just died tragically as well. If you are one of the people that has a conversation, please keep the family members in mind. Imagine how they feel. Imagine the types of things that will help them moving forward and deal with the losses they have suffered. Think of them instead of yourself. Show empathy and compassion first before judging anyone.

When my Tuesday began I thought it would be a great day as I normally do. Unfortunately this awful loss occurred, which interrupted that expectation. I was an emotional wreck for a while. However, at the end of the day, I felt pride that so many neighbors and community resources were available to help my neighbors. It is what they needed at the time. They got what was required because we came together to help, as we often do in Milwaukee’s black community.

If Tuesday taught me anything, I learned about the power of love and empathy and compassion for those who we do not know personally. Many who were there to support the family did not know them. Despite that, we rallied in a time of need.

I went to sleep that night feeling good about the positive response to a tragedy. I slept with a heavy heart for the family, but also with a sense of pride for my neighbors and the resources Reggie Moore brought to assist the family. They got what they needed at the time.

But more importantly, they got the love and empathy and support they deserved on such a very difficult day.

© Photo

Reggie Jackson and Vaun L. Mayes

About The Author

Reggie Jackson

As an award-winning Senior Columnist for the Milwaukee Independent, Reggie Jackson covers a range of African American issues. He is also a Consultant with Nurturing Diversity Partners, and volunteers as Head Griot for America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) in Bronzeville.

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