When death doesn't have a news hook

This guest post comes from Kathryn Gaglione, a friend of 16-year-old Prince Okorie who was shot and killed Nov. 30 in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood. Metro Police have not announced any arrests  in Okorie’s murder.

Tuesday evening, Nov. 30, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed in Northwest. The Washington Post’s Crime Scene blog posted four paragraphs about the shooting, and even provided a three-paragraph update a few hours later.

What the article doesn’t mention is that Prince Okorie was known and loved by many people. Not only did I work with him in a tutoring program, but I attended the same church congregation, I know his family, and I see how this tragedy is leaving those who cared about Prince in shock.

Every member of the community should be enraged by this crime. We should be up in arms about one of our children falling victim to such violence. But we’ve become too complacent, too willing to write off the death of a young man because he wasn’t an honors student, his family wasn’t well-known in the community, his death doesn’t have a “news hook.”

According to the D.C. police department statistics, there have been 120 homicides so far this year, which continues a downward trend that has been occurring for the past two years. And compared to the 232 murders that happened in 2001, we are making great strides to improve the safety of the city. Unfortunately, 40% of these crimes are still unsolved, and about 30% of them will become “cold cases” that are no longer actively investigated.

I can’t help thinking about the numbers when I think about Prince. How I don’t like those numbers. How I don’t find any comfort in knowing homicide rates are down. How those numbers don’t represent Prince.

Prince was your average teenager. He fought with his sister and talked back to his mother and tried pushing the boundaries. But he was also quiet and sweet and smart. He could have been anything, done anything with his life. All that potential lost.

Too many children are eaten alive by the violence of the inner city. And sometimes, no matter how much people love them or how hard people try to help them, the statistics don’t play in their favor. So the next time you read about the statistics, see Prince there. Those numbers are important because there are people behind them. And every one of them matters.

-Kathryn Gaglione

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