NBC News, January 2021
Shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 14, Shoskamika Risper said goodbye to her daughter, Mikayla, before leaving their Akron, Ohio, home for her job at a nearby KFC restaurant. “I love you, and I’ll see you later,” Risper told her. “I love you, too,” the 8-year-old replied. About eight hours later, as Risper was finishing up her shift, her phone rang. It was her teenage son. He was hysterical.
Mikayla had been shot at a birthday party for one of the kids around the block, he told her. One of the bullets fired into the neighbor’s backyard had slammed into Mikayla’s back. The soon-to-be third-grader, known by her school principal for her “brilliant sense of humor, energetic hugs and kind spirit,” was pronounced dead overnight. Risper received the news in the hospital waiting room, still wearing her KFC uniform. “It’s devastating,” Risper said. “She had her whole life to live.”
Homicides rose sharply across the country, in cities big and small, in 2020.
Kansas City, Missouri, broke its previous record-high year for homicides in October. The number of killings in Fort Wayne, Indiana, more than doubled. Los Angeles reached its own milestone in November: more than 300 homicides for the first time in over a decade.
In Akron, the bloodshed has taken a particularly painful toll. Violent crime isn’t new for this industrial city of nearly 200,000 in northern Ohio, but far more children lost their lives to gun violence in 2020 than in years past, police officials said. Over a single four-month stretch, a total of six children under the age of 16 were killed. All but one died from gunfire.