Furious residents in Kentucky are considering running their own patrols at school bus stops after a teen, who had just started his junior year, was shot within minutes of waving goodbye to his mom and heading to the school bus stop on Wednesday morning.
Louisville police said that 16-year-old Tyree Smith was waiting with a group of students for the bus to Eastern High School when an unidentified gunman drove by and allegedly opened fire. Tyree died at a local hospital and two other students were injured, police said. A stolen grey Jeep believed to be linked to the shooting was found on fire early Thursday morning after a search on Wednesday, police told the Louisville Courier Journal.
“My son left out of my door at 6:15. He called me at 6:18 and said, ‘Mama, I got shot,’” Tyree’s mom, Sherita Smith, told a group gathered for a vigil on Wednesday night, according to WAVE. “So what am I supposed to do when I’m guiding my son down the right path and he gets killed and hurt by senseless violence?”
Tyree’s death marks a devastating tally of 145 criminal homicides in Louisville this year, according to Mayor Greg Fischer.
Smith’s grief echoed throughout the community on Wednesday and spilled into Thursday morning, when more than a dozen community members gathered again at the street corner where Tyree was killed, outraged by the spike in gun violence and looking for answers.
“We’re going to continue to work hard,” said Louisville’s chief of community building Vincent James, according to the Courier Journal. “We're not going to stop until the bodies stop dropping in our community.”
Kamal Wells, another community activist, is hoping to build a team of men in the neighborhood who can help keep kids safe at bus stops.
According to the Courier Journal, Wells called for the support of “50 men” to station themselves at bus stops each morning and evening to ensure the safety of neighborhood kids coming to and from school.
“The mothers have stepped up, they take the kids to school and everything in this community. That's all I'm asking for, is 50 men to step up and be at the bus stops to protect the kids, because the kids shouldn't be harmed,” Wells said.
A councilman for the area that encompasses Tyree’s high school, Anthony Piagentini, told reporters Wednesday that the incident was “as bad as it gets.”
“Waiting at a bus stop, heading to school is about the lowest that this city can get,” he said.
One local resident, who said he was awakened by the sound of gunfire on Wednesday, told the Courier Journal that he rushed onto the corner to discover the victims of the drive-by shooting and begged one of the surviving teens to keep breathing as he covered his wound.
"I felt that little boy's wound this morning and that changed my life forever," Mark Pence, a Marine veteran, said of his encounter with the 13-year-old boy who was taken to a local hospital to be treated for his injuries.
“I’m used to telling other soldiers and other people in the service, ‘You ain’t going to die. You're going to be OK.’ This morning I had to tell a teenager, ‘You ain’t going to die. You’re going [to] be OK’ – and I didn’t even know for sure, because there was one right there that was dead.”
A 14-year-old girl also suffered a graze wound but did not immediately seek medical treatment, LMPD Chief Erika Shields told local outlets while acknowledging the spike in gun violence this year.
One middle-schooler, whose bus to another local school stops on the same block where Tyree was waiting, told WAVE that his mom had also been among a group who ran to help the injured students.
He said his mother told one of the injured boys to “put this towel on him until the paramedic comes,” as blood leaked from his wound.
Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio said that crisis counselors would be helping students address their grief in the aftermath of Smith’s death.
“This is traumatic for every single student at the bus stop and every single student at the school,” Pollio told WHAS.