Directly across the street, no more than a long three-point shot from the Southern Pines front porch where Jalinda Campbell was shot and killed and Kyleigh Graham was shot and nearly so, sits a grassy playground with basketball hoops and other fun equipment.
The courts and the field were silent Tuesday, though, not a bouncing ball or joyous scream, I’d like to think, out of deference to the tragedy that occurred there Friday. Jalinda, a 12-year-old girl who’d never done anything to anyone, who was beloved by teachers and classmates, was shot in a drive-by. Three-year-old Kyleigh, who was as blameless as can be, was shot in the neck.
Of course, there’s also the possibility the playground was empty because parents simply kept their children home – feeling that it was no longer safe to be out at 4 p.m., the time it was when I was there and the same time of day the children were shot.
Southern Pines police have arrested a 16-year-old suspect in the shooting, along with a 20-year-old man as an accessory after the fact.
Residents can rest a bit easier knowing that someone suspected of such disregard for life is in custody, but really, is there any consolation to be had when two children playing on their porch can be gunned down at 4 in the afternoon?
While driving down U.S. 1 South to Southern Pines this week to report on yet another death of a child, I wondered if I’d see any protests, any people marching en masse or even taking a knee to call attention.
That was just an intellectual exercise, truth be told, because I knew there’d be no public displays of incendiary indignation, no kneeing during the national anthem before football games, over the death of this black child.
Because the alleged gunman didn’t fit the description we’ve somehow deemed necessary to mobilize and demand a halt to the nonsense.
Oh, we’d be pitching a wang dang doodle for real, yo, had the suspected gunman been white or, perchance, a cop errantly slinging lead.
We are no less saddened when a black bad actor is accused of killing someone, but amazingly, it seems, our outrage-o-meter doesn’t jump into the red the way it does when a cop shoots and kills one of our children or men or women.
Driving along Michigan Avenue, there was a fear that I’d not be able to find the apartment where the shooting occurred. You don’t go knocking on people’s doors and asking, “Is this where that child was killed?”
She was very outgoing and comical, and knew how to bring life to the classroom.
Evette Rawls, Jalinda Campbell’s English teacher
There was no need to worry. If you possess any peripheral vision, as soon as you get to the intersection of Michigan and South Henley Street, your eye catches a 7-foot-tall array of colorful balloons hung in modest memoriam, and then you see candles laid out in front of a chair on which sat a picture of the sixth-grader.
Jalinda’s cousin, Genesha Campbell, told me she had walked out the door of the apartment and past the two children on her way to a neighbor’s house Friday. Kyleigh, the 3-year-old, “was just running around, playing. She was sitting watching him. I was gone for a couple of minutes,” Campbell said, when she heard the gunshots. “When I came back, they were lying on the porch.”
Campbell said she held and tried to comfort them.
She is 17.
As I stood in the front room, probably three feet from where the children were shot, talking to Jalinda’s cousin and 16-year-old sister, Teaisha, two cars pulled up and two of Jalinda’s teachers at Southern Middle School came in to offer comfort and condolences.
The cousin and sister were the only family members at home at the time, and the meeting quickly turned into a reunion when it turned out that both teachers had previously taught the cousin and the sister. After hugs were shared all around, the teachers began sharing, albeit only with prodding, reminiscences of Jalinda.
“She was very observant,” Evette Rawls, Jalinda’s English teacher, said. “She paid attention to everything. She was very outgoing and comical, and knew how to bring life to the classroom.”
The other teacher said Jalinda’s classmates are exhibiting a mix of feelings.
The school, bless its heart, brought in grief counselors to help them understand those emotions.
Great, but what about for the rest of us?