INDIANAPOLIS — IMPD reports that a teenager shot while witnesses say he was filming a rap video with friends in an eastside neighborhood Sunday night has died of his wounds.
The 18-year-old is now listed as a homicide victim as police confiscated multiple firearms from the scene, including one with a machine gun modification.
This was in the same area where three days before detectives stopped another teenager with three guns, including one modified to shoot as a machine gun.
”It’s their way of life,” said Anthoney Hampton, a youth mentor I met outside the Brightwood Martindale Community Center. “A lot of those videos is a lot of local rappers, there’s a lot of murder, there’s a lot of guns. It’s the most prevalent thing in the young black community.”
“More than cell phones?” I asked.
“Guns,” said Hampton.
“More than game controllers?”
“More than PS2?”
At least a dozen children in Indianapolis have lost their lives to gunfire this year.
Two young Marion County children have died, one to an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound, the other to an inadvertent bullet fired by a sibling.
With nearly three dozen non-fatal juvenile gunshot victims in Indianapolis so far this year, the city is well on its way to smashing last year’s record of children wounded by gunfire.
“Everybody got ‘em in the inner city, in poor communities, it’s a way of life,” said Hampton. “You can’t leave your house and expect to go to the store or gas station for your parents and make it back without being shot because there is so much conflict going on.”
Researchers have pinpointed personal trauma and community stress as leading predictors of childhood gun behavior.
“It brings a level of trauma, the emotional healing that comes with that as well such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression rates are higher within these communities as well survivors and families,” said Dr. Lauren Magee of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University who had just finished a session with violence survivors before our interview. ”No matter if you’re a direct victim, sibling or family member or even just within communities. And with exposure to trauma, specifically gun violence, people have a lot of anxiety and fear, specifically higher rates of depression and PTSD.”
Magee said that stress informs poor firearms decision-making by children neither emotionally or intellectually equipped to consider their options.
”When I’ve talked with some youth or other people in the community, a lot of it is fear, they feel like they need to protect themselves, they need to protect their families, we also have to ask the question, ‘What trauma have they experienced before?’” she said. ”And that trauma exposure that has been unhealed, they therefore don’t have that ability to not make those rash decisions.”
Hampton said he sees it every day in his community and local schools.
”Your environment dictates your behavior. There’s not too much being offered in a lot of these communities. These young men have been in school together, they raise each other, they love each other, they want to die and kill for each other,” he said. ”They’re living to die, sad to say. There’s so many of them that’s at war with each other and they’re so young.”
Magee said her research confirms what Hampton hears from the streets.
”Once someone has been a shooting victim, they almost manifest that trauma into, ‘I’ve been shot five times, nothing can stop me now,’” she said. “It’s become so normalized in these communities that being shot themselves isn’t seen as an event. It’s seen as something they just need to heal from and move on to the next thing that they need to do in their day.
”They don’t expect to live past 21. They don’t know any male figures in their lives that have almost lived past 30”
During a monthly meeting with reporters, Mayor Joe Hogsett was asked about City efforts to specifically combat youth gun violence.
Hogsett’s staff referred to programs that provide around-the-clock response to youth violence emergencies as well as efforts by IMPD to provide more presence in schools.
IMPD Chief Randal Taylor told FOX59 News that his office would welcome the participation of other agencies in the battle against youth gun violence.
Hogsett said his office stood ready to participate with other partners when asked if it was time to consider declaration of a Marion County Public Health Department juvenile gunshot wound violence public health emergency or if the Marion County Prosecutors Office should be more aggressive in prosecuting adults who make firearms available to children.
”It’s definitely a public health emergency,” said Hampton. “Youth gun violence, young adult gun violence, is affecting our community, peoples’ lives, it’s putting a stain on the city’s reputation, it makes it uncomfortable for people to travel in various areas, it makes it hard for family members to get together.
”Hopefully what you’re trying to do will bring more resources to these young men.”