US girl, 13, who wrote essay on gun violence is killed by stray bullet

Sandra Parks was fatally shot on Nov 19, 2018, when someone outside fired a gun at her home and a stray bullet went into her bedroom.
Sandra Parks was fatally shot on Nov 19, 2018, when someone outside fired a gun at her home and a stray bullet went into her bedroom.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/BERNICE PARKS

MILWAUKEE (NEW YORK TIMES) - When she was in sixth grade, Sandra Parks wrote an award-winning essay about gun violence and crime in her hometown, Milwaukee.

On Monday (Nov 19), two years after she described how "we are in a state of chaos", she was fatally shot when someone outside fired a gun at her home and a stray bullet went into her bedroom.

Sandra, 13, was watching television at the time, her sister, Tatiana Ingram, told the television station WISN.

"My sister took it like a soldier: She just walked in the room and said, 'Mama, I'm shot,'" Ingram said. "She was only hit one time, in her chest. The bullet wasn't even for her."

Sandra's mother, Bernice Parks, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her daughter "was everything this world is not".

"My baby did not like violence," she said of Sandra, her middle child, adding, "She was my angel from the time she was in my womb to the time she came out."

In Sandra's essay, which placed third in her school district's 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest, she called for more empathy and less negativity, and emphasised the importance of getting an education to make the world a better place.

"We are the future leaders, but if we don't have an education, we will accomplish nothing," she wrote. She described a world where "little children are victims of senseless gun violence" and "there is too much black-on-black crime".

"Sometimes, I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day," she wrote. "When I do; I come to the same conclusion… we are in a state of chaos."

Sandra, then a sixth-grader, told Wisconsin Public Radio that she chose to write about violence because "all you hear about is somebody dying or somebody getting shot and people do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson who it was that was just killed."

Vickie Brown-Gurley, who worked as the principal of Keefe Avenue School when Sandra was in fifth and sixth grade, remembered Sandra as a confident student with a "really good sense of humour".

Over the past two years, 12 students in Milwaukee public schools were homicide victims, a spokeswoman for the school district said. Sandra is the seventh since January.

"It's part of the insanity we see in Milwaukee," Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters Tuesday. "I look at where we are now as a city and it breaks my heart to stand here. As a dad, it breaks my heart."

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Milwaukee County district attorney's office charged Isaac D. Barnes, 26, and Untrell Oden, 27, with first-degree reckless homicide and other counts in Sandra's death.

Both men have previous armed robbery convictions and were charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. A criminal complaint said that during a search of a nearby home, officers located Oden and found Barnes "hiding in a closet" there.

A detective who later processed the scene recovered a pistol from a garbage can in the living room as well as a semi-automatic rifle from the bedroom. Experts later test-fired the pistol, compared the casings to the ones found outside Sandra's home, and found that they matched.

"The motive is still being determined," Sgt. Sheronda Grant,a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Police Department, said Wednesday.

On Sandra's family's GoFundMe page, Bernice Parks said her daughter had hoped to attend college and become a writer.

"Sandra was special," Parks told the television station WITI. "She didn't deserve to leave this world like that."