As 13-year-old Parks sat in her room watching television on Monday night, a hail of bullets smashed through her window. The bullets were not intended for her, but one struck her in the chest.
“She took it like a soldier,” Parks’ sister told WISN. “She just walked in the room and said, ‘Mama, I’m shot’… The bullet wasn’t even for her.” First responders were unable to save Parks, who died at the scene.
Two convicted felons were arrested after they were found nearby with AK-47-style weapons. It is unclear if they had deliberately targeted the house.
Two years before the fatal tragedy, Parks had won an award for an essay decrying the constant shootings in her hometown. Her passionate call-to-action placed third in an essay competition commemorating the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sandra Parks, 13, wrote this essay about gun violence and its effects on children like her. This week, she was killed by a stray bullet while she was in her bedroom. https://t.co/ituJuEAWvz pic.twitter.com/nsU4KbX8t2
— Faith M. Karimi (@FaithMKarimi) November 22, 2018
“We are in a state of chaos,” Parks, then an eighth grader, wrote. “In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost everyday. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence. There is too much black-on-black crime.”
“Our first truth is that we must start caring about each other,” she continued. “We need to be empathetic and try to walk in each other’s shoes… We shall overcome, when we love ourselves and the people around us. Then, we become our brother’s keeper.”
The news was met with shock and grief on Twitter:
— Paul Harbridge 🏒📖 (@PaulHarbridge) November 22, 2018
"We need to rewrite our story so that faith and hope for a better tomorrow, is not only within us, but we believe it and we put it into actions" – Sandra Parks, 13
Yesterday we lost Sandra to senseless gun violence. When will Congress stop this brutality? https://t.co/AMQxRWwTP2
— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) November 20, 2018
Heartbreaking. Rest In Peace Sandra Parks ♥️ https://t.co/v4o8eGeyAu
— Dare Ogunbowale (@DGO23_) November 21, 2018
Around 90 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks, according to FBI data. Poverty is another predictor for violent crime, and Milwaukee’s poverty rate is over 17 percent, far above the state average of ten percent.
The result for Milwaukee’s black community is repeated tragedy. 74 people have been shot dead in the city this year to date, of whom the vast majority were black.
Parks is the fifth Milwaukee child fatally shot inside a home by gunfire from outside in the last four years. Two others were caught in the crossfire, one in a playground and another in his own backyard.
The problem is not unique to Milwaukee. In St. Louis, Missouri, this August, a 17-year-old black boy was shot in the head outside a restaurant on his birthday. Just an hour earlier, the boy had written a Facebook post saying he was “glad I can say I made it to see 17.”
Mourners gathered for a vigil outside Parks’ house on Tuesday night, some holding printouts of her chillingly prophetic essay. Parks’ mother, Bernice, has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for her daughter’s memorial services.
“My baby was not violent. My baby did not like violence,” she told WISN.