By Ebi Kesiena
Stray bullets have killed a baby in his car seat, a man in bed and a girl walking with her mother. Each of them were killed days apart as surging gun violence ripples through the United States.
In addition to the people killed in suicides or the homicides hitting record levels in some US cities, an untallied number of other victims are struck by bullets that weren’t meant for them.
The deaths can spark fleeting spurts of media and police attention similar to the nation’s recurrent horror over mass shootings only for the focus to ebb until the next tragedy occurs.
Chris Herrmann, a gun violence expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City said that it happens so regularly.
“If this happened in a foreign country, it would be headline news.”
The southern US city of Atlanta was the scene of two cases this month.
A 31-year-old British astrophysicist named Matthew Willson was in bed on January 16 when he awoke to sounds of gunfire outside his girlfriend’s apartment and was fatally shot moments later.
“It’s impossible to comprehend how it is even true,” his sister Kate Willson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.
About a week later Kerri Gray was driving with her six-month-old son Grayson Fleming-Gray when she heard a noise and two cars raced past.
“There was no shattered glass, there was no crying. It was instant,” she told reporters after her child’s killing.
Days earlier, eight-year-old Melissa Ortega was walking down a Chicago sidewalk on the afternoon of January 22 when one man tried to shoot another, but killed her instead.
“He took away my purpose for being. The reason I got up every day. He took away a life full of dreams,” the girl’s mother Araceli Leanos told Univision TV in Spanish.
The FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they do not track stray bullet deaths in the United States, where some 40,000 people die annually due to guns, a majority of which are suicides.
US law enforcement statistics differentiate between accidental and intentional slayings, but not the exact circumstances.
Herrmann, the gun violence expert, estimated stray bullet killings were one to two percent of the total of firearms deaths and increased or decreased along with the total number of shootings.