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Reflecting The Day After A 15-Year-Old Is Killed: I Did The Best I Could

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Nadege Green
/
WLRN
A memorial for Joewaun "Popcorn" Coles just steps away from where he was killed on Northwest 75th Street and 16th Avenue

WLRN is looking at the impact of children and teens killed by guns in South Florida through the voices of some of the people who are most affected.

You can find the entire series at wlrn.org/ownwords

Joewaun Coles was a freshman at Miami Northwestern High in Liberty City. Everyone called him “Popcorn.” 

The 15-year old was slain in the courtyard of the apartment complex where he lived in May. The bullets were meant for a group of men playing craps nearby.

He’s one of more than 100 children and teenagers who have been killed by guns in Miami-Dade County over the last three years.

The day after his death, Josephine Cameron, a family friend who raised him, spoke to WLRN. Joewaun called her grandma.

An edited excerpt of the conversation with Cameron.

I got to the back door. I heard the shots ring out.

And I asked a boy, “Where is Popcorn?"

 He said, "Ms. Jo, he down there."

I went down there. There he was laying stretched out.

I said, “Oh my God. It’s Popcorn.” I went to him.  I said,  “Popcorn! Popcorn!”

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Joewaun "Popcorn" Coles.

 He raised his head up. I said, “I’m here. I’m here, Popcorn.”

He was my heart. He knows it.

I did the best I could. I did. He loved me and I loved him.

I sit here and I cried and I cried, but a voice come to like he used to tell me, "Grandma, don’t cry. It’s gonna be all right."

He wanted to be a football player.

Grades ain’t come out right, there was no football.

I said, "Baby, you get your education. You can be anything you want to do because that is more important than anything in the world."

I don’t allow no guns in my house. I don’t even allow Popcorn to play with no guns. A friend told me Popcorn was standing up on a video, had a play gun.

I said, "Come here."

He come.

I said, "Where you get a gun at? I heard you were on YouTube or whatever tube it is with a play gun."

He said it wasn't real. I said, "If I live to be 100 years old, you better not ever have a gun you understand me?"

He said, "Yes, ma'am."

Your friends can be your worst nightmare. You don’t be a follower, you be a leader.  

And he had to have somebody there to push him. Support him. Every program he had, I was right there. Every teacher conference, I was right there.

What’s more important than a child?

Me and him had a great life. I’m not pleased because it still hurts.

These little children running around with these big 'ol guns that they can’t handle. Why can’t they take it away from them?