He played tuba, baseball at McKinley and dreamed of college. A shooting cut it all short. | Crime/Police | #College. | #Students

It was still dark on Saturday morning when Shericka Bowman’s phone rang, jolting her awake.

On the other end of the line was her middle son with a message that “no mother or father should get,” Bowman recalled: Her youngest child, Mjireyae Addison, had been shot dead.

“I didn’t want to believe him,” Bowman said.

Remembered by his mother as a “bright, outgoing person” who “didn’t meet any strangers,” the 18-year-old McKinley High School senior had hopes of going to Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college in Texas. He wanted to study mechanical engineering there and eventually make a living designing cars, Bowman said.

Those dreams were snuffed out Saturday in the hours before Bowman awoke.

Addison, 18, was shot dead around 2:15 that morning following what Baton Rouge Police described as an altercation inside a home on North Ardenwood Drive. He was the latest victim of surging gun violence in a city and region that have struggled to quell growing homicide rates in the past two years.

“It feels like it was a person taken away from this earth who was willing to help other people,” Bowman said Monday.

Coming just over two months into 2022, the shooting was the seventh this year in East Baton Rouge City-Parish to leave a teenager dead.

Those victims include 14-year-old Dion Williams and 19-year-old Shawn E. George II, killed hours apart on Jan. 9 in shootings that police said may have been connected; 17-year-old Darlin Joel Torrez-Velasquez, who died in a brazen killing on Sherwood Forest Ave. weeks later; and Clifton Lindsey and Donte Dorsey, who died when an unknown shooter or shooters riddled their car with bullets outside the Mall of Louisiana.

Last year, Baton Rouge had 149 homicides, an unprecedented figure that shattered 2020’s earlier record-breaking 114 killings, records maintained by The Advocate show. The newspaper tracks intentional and unjustified killings per FBI crime reporting rules  — data that is preliminary, and could change if some cases are later ruled accidental or justified and vice versa.

Though more people under 20 have fallen victim to gun violence this year, that reality is not entirely new. The past two years’ growing homicide rates have disproportionately impacted young, Black men in the city-parish.

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But the seven teenage victims to have died so far this year are still more than double the number of teenagers — three — who fell victim to gun violence by this point in 2021, Advocate records show.

It’s a trend that may be fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III, after two years in which the virus upended kids’ support systems at schools and at home. That might be contributing not only to a larger number of juvenile homicide victims, but young people who grow desperate enough to exact violent crimes on people their age group, Moore III said. 

It’s a trend he hopes a new City-Parish Homicide Review Commission can begin to unravel. 

“If we set that up properly, can we take a look at these juveniles’ lives, their families’ lives, and to figure out what allowed them to get to this position,” Moore III said. “What allowed them to become a victim, or become a defendant.”

In this 2015 file photo, White Hills Elementary music teacher Kelly Hudson, foreground, directs show choir members in ‘Opportunity,’ a song from the new ‘Annie,’ on Thursday in preparation for an upcoming performance. Back, from left, are Kaleigh Dunkin, 10, Diamonque Milligan, 12, M’Jireyaé Addison, 11, Bryan Poland, Jr., 10, and Montrell Thornton, 10.

Addison’s death left the community mourning at McKinley High, where he played tuba in the marching band and was a catcher on the baseball team.

In a statement, administrators lamented that the school was “once again facing the effects of gun violence.” And McKinley High baseball coach Marcus Roberts remembered Addison, who had played at catcher for the school since his sophomore year, as a “star.”

“Please stop killing each other,” he implored.

Her son’s death has left Bowman stunned and clamoring for more answers about the way he was killed. No arrests have been made, and police have not said that they have any suspects.

She has friends and extended family who’ve lost people to gun violence in the past two years — but it has never affected her so directly, she said.

“Death comes naturally,” Bowman said, “but it shouldn’t come like this.”

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