Theresa Lumpkin was, until Thursday, the Mother of 13-year-old Robert Freeman Jr. of Chicago. Her tenure as his parent ended when the young boy was shot and killed on the South Side of Chicago in what many believe to be a case of mistaken identity.
Witnesses say, though, that the murder was deliberate, as the gunman shot the young boy multiple times.
"My baby was just lying there,'' said Lumpkin. "He tried to get up. He tried to fight for his mama. He tried to fight for his life.''
Neighbors who saw the incident did not want their names to be published.
"I was running out [of] the door to say, Stop shooting that baby," one neighbor said.
Robert had 22 bullet holes in his body, according to doctors. The people of the community say that he was apparently targeted because he had the same complexion, height and hairstyle of another boy who was the actual target. Police are investigating whether the shooting was due to a dispute over drugs or money.
This was the fourth teen shooting in the area this week.
The amount of violence occurring in Chicago over the past two years is shocking and simply disgraceful. The number of youth murders in Chicago over the past several years parallels the number of soldiers who've died in Iraq. If this does not call for a state of emergency, I don't know what does. The federal government must become involved, since young people should not have to endure such tragedy at any age, let alone at 13 years old.
The murder of Robert Freeman is also disturbing because it almost seems as if people would be less sympathetic if he were not a victim of mistaken identity. Let's be clear: No 13-year-old child should be the target of homicide. Kids that age should not have to worry about being shot on the way to school.
Have we become so insensitive as to forget the long-term psychological damage that this kind of trauma can cause to the children in this neighborhood? If four kids had been shot in my neighborhood in such a short amount of time, I would have seriously considered carrying a weapon to protect myself, even as an eighth-grader.
When I was younger, my best friend was shot in the head in a case of mistaken identity. Some people were looking for drugs and money and he was shot and killed in front of his 3-year-old daughter. Since he was a black man who lived in the poorer side of my hometown, the media overlooked his case and the police only worked part-time to find the killer. In fact, his family has known for years who the killer is, but neither the police, nor potential witnesses, have been willing to step forward.
That same week, a white woman was murdered in a wealthier part of the city. The public approach to her murder was dramatically different from that of my best friend. Her death was featured as the lead story on local news for several days. There was a $25,000 reward put out to bring her killer to justice. The suffering of her family was featured in the local newspaper, while my friend's death was mentioned in the bottom of the very last page, likely in the "Another ni**er died this week" section of the paper.
It was disheartening to watch the suffering of my best friend's family go completely ignored, primarily because he was a lower-class black man. It is equally disheartening to watch the public and the federal government ignore the deaths of scores of black and brown youth in the city of Chicago - all because they are not wealthy kids from Martha's Vineyard.
Hundreds of millions of dollars needs to be invested to provide additional resources to fight youth violence. Also, the neighborhood where almost no one will speak up publicly on who killed Robert Freeman must find unique methods to police their communities to ensure that predators are extracted from their cities. This murder was tragic, painful and shameful.
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Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.