Last year, Zarriel Trotter joined other boys in a public-service announcement to plea for the end of gun violence in Chicago.
On Friday, the 13-year-old was shot in the lower back by a stray bullet fired during a heated argument on a street a few blocks from his home.
“It’s really heartbreaking to hear one of your students has been hurt in this way,” said Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn, principal at Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School, where Zarriel is a seventh-grader.
It was the kind of shooting Zarriel said in the video he was growing tired of hearing about in his community.
“He was an unintended target,” Jamison-Dunn said of the teenager.
Chicago has posted statistics for shootings for the first two months of the year. January saw 51 killings, making it the deadliest month on record in at least 16 years, CNN affiliate WGN reported. February had at least 43 killings.
The Chicago Tribune said the body count made it the deadliest start to a year in the city in nearly two decades. Police have reported that gun and homicide arrests are up.
“This is a war zone. People are afraid,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Catholic pastor who has gained national attention for his work with troubled young people, particularly those touched by violence.
“I know families who are telling their sons who are away at school or living outside Chicago not to come home for the summer,” Pfleger said.
On Twitter, Pfleger routinely keeps a tally of gun deaths and injuries with the hashtag #CHI-RAQ (as in Iraq), a reference to filmmaker Spike Lee’s movie about the blood-drenched city.
On Good Friday night, Zarriel was one of the more than a dozen people injured in shootings throughout the city, according to the Tribune.
“We’re praying he makes a full recovery,” Jamison-Dunn said. “He’s in our thoughts every day.”
The principal said Zarriel had surgery on Friday. Although originally listed in critical condition, Jamison-Dunn said the boy’s mother told her he’s improving.
“He was awake and showing strong progress,” Jamison-Dunn said.
The madness must end.