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Milwaukee Girl Who Condemned Gun Violence Is Killed By Bullet

Milwaukee community organizer Tracey Dent (center) holds up a third place award that Sandra Parks won at a vigil on Tuesday.
Ximena Conde
Milwaukee community organizer Tracey Dent (center) holds up a third place award that Sandra Parks won at a vigil on Tuesday.

Two years ago, when sixth-grader Sandra Parks was at Milwaukee's Keefe Avenue School, she wrote an essay about gun violence:

"We are in a state of chaos. In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence. There is too much black on black crime. As an African-American, that makes me feel depressed. Many people have lost faith in America and its ability to be a living example of Dr. King's dream!"

The essay titled "Our Truth" took third place in Milwaukee Public School's annual Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest. In January 2017, Sandra told Wisconsin Public Radio, "All you hear about is somebody dying and somebody getting shot. People do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson was just killed."

She also said she looked forward to doing big things in her life. "I would like to stop all the violence and... negativity that's going on in the world," she said. "And stop all the black on black crimes, and all the rumors and stereotypes that's been spread around."

On Monday Sandra was shot and killed when a gunman opened fire on her house. She was 13. Wisconsin Public Radio reports authorities are still working to determine if the home was targeted.

According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Isaac D. Barnes, 26, has been charged with homicide and Untrell Oden, 27, is facing two counts of being a felon with a gun.

Bernice Parks, Sandra's mother, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinelthat her daughter was "everything this world is not."

"My baby was not violent. My baby did not like violence," Parks said. "Everybody she knew, everybody that came past, she made them happy. She didn't like for nobody to be sad or down."

On Tuesday night, the Milwaukee community remembered Parks at a vigil in front of her home. As Wisconsin Public Radio reports, Berenice Parks spoke to the mourners about her daughter and other Milwaukee students who have been killed in homicides:

"I understand that there was a lot of kids that passed away recently and I wouldn't say that my baby was better than the rest but God, Jesus, Lord have mercy," said Bernice Parks, referring to the fact that her daughter is the seventh Milwaukee Public School student to be victim of a homicide this year. "Lord have mercy knows, she was a star that was trying to get out, but she didn't know how."    

Other community activists and religious leaders prayed and called for the end to the violence.

"We have to change the culture. We can no longer live in these neighborhoods where these children cannot go outside or cannot go and stay in the house," said Tory Lowe, another community organizer.

"We must not allow the lies of violence, racism, and prejudice to be our truth. The truth begins with us," wrote Sandra in her essay condemning gun violence. "Instead of passing each other like ships in the night, we must fight until our truths stretch to the ends of the world."

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Corrected: November 26, 2018 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this report included incorrect information from Wisconsin Public Radio, which said 12 Milwaukee public school students had been killed this year. In fact, there have been seven student deaths this year and 12 in the past two years.