At Apartment Complex Where 6-Year-Old Was Killed, Volunteers Try To Make A Difference
The Blue Lake Village Apartments are painted beige and green. Locals call them the “Colors.”
Around the back, there’s a playground with faded yellow slides, but kids can’t get in.
The green gate is welded shut.
“They had problems on the playground with not the kids but other folks coming out and hanging around and doing their dirt over here pretty much,” said Miami-Dade police officer Antonio Moore.
This is the apartment complex, at 1215 NW 103rd Lane in Northwest Miami-Dade, where 6-year old King Carter lived. In February, he was gunned down while walking to go buy candy.
About two weeks ago, a man and woman were also shot in the complex. They survived.
This week, about 40 volunteers including police officers, social workers and early child-care specialists gathered in the parking lot of the apartments for a program called the “Walking One Stop.” The program brings social services to neighborhoods in Miami-Dade that experience violent crimes.
Leonie Hermatin with the Children’s Trust was one of the volunteers knocking on doors. She carried bags filled with pamphlets and brochures about early child-care programs, job resource guides and information from the health department to hand out to residents.
Samantha McCray tentatively opened her apartment door.
Hermatin introduced herself and quickly learned that McCray had a 2-year old son. She told McCray to sign up now for a free monthly book program for 3-year olds.
“He’s going to get his own book for an entire year,” said Hermatin. “Every month it comes to him. You can read to him.”
McCray said when she first heard the knocking at her door and saw police officers and people standing around in the hallway she wasn’t expecting it to be about books.
“I was like, ‘I know no one else was killed today.’ I know that’s a sad reality. I never thought it would be for something positive,” she said.
McCray is divorced. She and her kids had to downsize from a house to finding a more affordable space. This is where they landed because it was available, but McCray said she never imagined that moving here would make her fear for her children’s lives.
“The children are pretty much forced to be robbed a little of their childhood because you have to protect them. They can’t have the freedom to roam around,” she said. “Everything is about, ‘Oh your children need to be out more to be healthy,’ but you want your children to be alive.”
So she has a rule: Her kids can’t go outside
“If you change your behavior as a result of the violence, you’re traumatized,” said Wayne Rawlins, who coordinates the Walking One Stop.
The impact of gun violence goes beyond the direct victims, he said. It has ripple effects that can scar an entire neighborhood.
Rawlins said that’s why he invites community agencies that serve this population to meet the residents where they live.
“Many service providers get stuck in their cubicles thinking that someone will actually come to their cubicle for services and it’s not happening,” he said. “When they come out here and they see face-to-face residents that are traumatized by the violence, it reinvigorates them.”
Sherronda Moultrey works for the Early Learning Coalition. She’s talking to Ciara Brown and taking down her contact information.
“ What you can do is sign up the baby for early Head Start. We provide formula, diapers, wipes; you get to choose the school,” she told Brown, who is eight-months pregnant.
Brown’s 2-year-old son is humming and doing his happy dance next to her. They live one floor below where King Carter’s family lived.
About two weeks ago, Brown watched as King’s parents packed up and moved out.
Brown said sometimes when she looks at her son she thinks about her 6-year old neighbor who loved to play.
“We usually be outside so anybody’s child could have gotten shot and I don’t know what I would have done if it was my son,” said Brown.
A few doors down, Latina King said she’s seeing some small improvements around the complex.
“They put up the cameras after King Carter died. The cameras are really good," said King. "Now they putting a gate up.”
Within days of King’s death at the Blue Lake Village Apartments, Miami-Dade police officers did a walk through with the building’s owner.
Lt. Brenda Ferbee-Blackshear said they identified immediate fixes that could make the complex safer.
"There needs to be more lighting. The signs need to be posted. Those improvement have been made,” said Ferbee-Blackshear, who participated in the Walking One Stop.
But for James Palmer who moved in two months ago, that’s still not enough.
“ I don’t want my kids around here because of the fact of the shootings,” he said.
Palmer said his apartment is what he can afford. It’s a place to stay, but it isn’t home and it doesn’t feel safe.