Too many teens dying violent deaths

Ted Oberg looks at why so many Houston-area young people are being killed. What's going on and is there any way to stop it?
November 27, 2013 8:24:03 PM PST
Seven Houston-area children have been shot to death in the last three weeks. The year-over-year increase is projected to be almost 40 percent, according to the Harris County Child Fatality Review Team and Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

The victims are mostly teenagers 15, 16 17 years old, some involved with gangs. That is where Eyewitness News started our look at who is dying, how and why.

Crime scenes are hardly the full measure of murder when kids die. One recent victim, 17-year-old Braveon Terry was gunned down 10 days ago at a Houston house party. No one's been arrested for the crime.

Eyewitness News attended his funeral last Saturday afternoon where his mother, Brandi Williams, stroked Terry's face before closing his casket in front of a crowded southeast Houston church.

"I don't want to think about it, I don't even want to think about burying my child," Williams told us.

But two days later, she did. Unable to shake her sense of loss, she told us, "I asked God to give me a son because I wanted him to love me. And he did, but they took everything I asked God for."

In the last 11 months, 24 moms have lost their children in Harris County alone. All were killed by gun fire. Eight of them suicides, two of them allegedly by their fathers; another two died in accidents. The rest were killed by other young people.

Many of the crimes are still unsolved.

On the southwest side of Houston, a teen who we'll call "Eva," tried to save her neighbor after he was shot four times in front of his own southwest Houston apartment on November 5. Javier Alejo was just 14 years old.

"When I am in bed trying to sleep, I still see him grabbing for me. I still see his face. I still see him having a hard time breathing. His own mother was trying to save this life," Eva said.

Alejo was barely in high school before he was killed. Eva fears that outside his family and apartment complex, Alejo is largely forgotten.

"This kid, his story is not told. No one knows about him," she said.

We never know much about any of these victims beyond crime scenes and Facebook photos.

Fifteen-year-old Isaiah's mother says the good student and athlete was killed by a gun his friend sold to another man just days earlier. Sixteen-year-old Gregory was killed when a gun went off in the back seat of a friend's car. Seventeen-year-old Gregg was allegedly killed by teens driving by, firing a gun into his car.

So many of the victims share an explanation with Terry -- that it's just gang violence. His mother says that's unfair.

"I don't need them to look at this as just a gang case," Williams said.

That excuse, Terry's mom says, allows us to somehow write it off. Nine of the 15 juvenile homicides were in the gang-saturated neighborhoods of southwest Houston.

But the real issue we keep hearing from families closest to gun violence is the access to guns themselves.

"It happened," Terry's mother warns, "because these kids have such easy access to guns. It's like buying bubble gum now."

It's a thought we've heard again and again. But all of it too is late to save the 23 Houston kids who've died in the last 11 months.

Terry's mother ended our interview saying this: "I hope you're sleeping well at night, because I am not."

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