Leaving holes

By Neal McNamara

Random bullets and the maiming of the innocent

Which of the six bullet holes in the side of 1002 Vincent Court matches the hole in the hand of the 7-year-old girl?

It was two Sundays ago after 10 p.m. when Lansing police received a call that on the 1000 block of Vincent Court something had come through the window of an apartment and struck a young girl in the arm. Later, police were updated that there had been several shots fired into an apartment from outside. One of those shots made it into the hand of that little girl, though the bullets — police say — were meant for one of the adults inside the apartment.

On a recent day in front of 1002 Vincent Court, which is just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south side, just steps from the historical marker of the Malcolm X homestead, a man and a woman and and a young girl were getting inside a car. When asked if they knew anything about the shooting a few days earlier, they said that they were not home at the time. When asked if they knew the people who lived in 1002, they said they didn’t.

“They don’t come around a lot anymore,” the woman said. “They don’t live up here anymore.”

Peering through one of the bullet holes in the window of the apartment — one of several bland, onestory mint-colored units in the complex — one can see that the dwelling was recently vacated. The leavings of a hurried move out, like papers and other trinkets, were scattered about the floor.

Police say that the 7-year-old is OK. She was treated for her injuries and released from a local hospital. But who knows the deeper scars that this incident left.

“Shooting a weapon into an apartment, it’s so reckless, so careless,” Lansing Police Lt. Noel Garcia said. “I don’t care who they have a beef with, with a 7-year-old getting hit, it’s scary.”

The maiming of innocents by stray bullets fired in drive-bys, walk-bys or into a house in the name of retaliation for some beef seems too common. Last fall, we reported on a retaliatory shooting on Deerfield Avenue where one (of several) bullets pierced the front of the house and went straight through the center of a baby’s crib, coming to rest in the child’s pillow. Luckily, the baby was not in his crib at the time.

There are more infamous accounts of such shootings in Lansing. In 2001, an 11-year-old girl was struck in the back by a random bullet as she was sleeping in her apartment. She almost died and was left with paralysis in her left foot. In 2000, a stray bullet killed 31-yearold Verlinda Williams, a mother of two and a teaching assistant in the Lansing School District, as she driving away from a bar on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. In 2006 in New Haven, Conn., this reporter witnessed a 13-year-old girl get shot in the back at a party outside her home after a group of similarly aged boys sprayed bullets into the crowd as part of gang initiation. Jajuana Cole, a member of her school’s drill team, died hours after the shooting.

Garcia says there’s really no way to track how the frequencies of incidents like this — where homes or people are shot at randomly. Nor do gun control groups or agencies like the Centers for Disease Control, which tracks types of death or injury, keep statistics. But Garcia said it doesn’t happen often.

From talking to witnesses, Garcia said, it appears that two males who were driving a grey or silver Chevrolet Impala did the shooting. One witness told police of seeing the two men exit the vehicle, then they disappeared from sight. Then the shots rang out.

From looking at where the bullets entered 1002 Vincent Court, it appeared that the shooters were aiming at a window on the west side of the apartment. Six bullets entered either through the window or through the siding just below it. Maybe they saw their adult targets through the window. Maybe they didn’t know that a small child was also there, playing with her toys or watching TV.

“When we find who was responsible for this, they will be prosecuted to the letter of the law,” Garcia said. “There will be numerous charges coming.”