I-TEAM: Haunting numbers on crisis of youth gun violence
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s been 12 days since a 15-year-old aspiring football star was killed on Old McDuffie Road.
To this day, few details have been released for this deadly shooting investigation. Leaving his family stuck with grief, calling for Zaire Person’s killers to step forward.
His family sat down with our I-TEAM to talk about what happened that night.
Right now, we have two different death investigations overlapping that involve 13-year-old Buddy Brown and 15-year-old Zaire Person.
With the information we have now, both seemingly were innocent bystanders. The number of young people dying from gun violence is growing and it’s finding its way into the lives of people who tried to stay away from it.
“The athlete stayed out of trouble. He was mannerable. All the good things you look for in a kid ... that was him,” said Rick McGhee, coach, mentor, and family friend.
And yet gun violence in our community knocked on Person’s door unexpectedly.
Demario McMath is also his coach and mentor. He said, “We don’t know why, you know. God may have just needed him more than we did here.”
EARLIER COVERAGE FROM NEWS 12:
- 15-year-old killed in Augusta shooting on Old McDuffie Road
- Family remembers 15-year-old killed in Augusta shooting
- Coach, mentor says slain 15-year-old had a ‘big heart of a lion’
Tanya Borders is Person’s grandmother. She says he wasn’t supposed to be in Augusta. They had plans to go to South Korea to visit a family member in the military. His passport didn’t come back in time so he stayed behind. The family didn’t know any of this happened until they got there.
“He said, ‘Zaire is gone’. And I said, ‘go where?’ You know? And he said, ‘Mom, somebody shot and killed Zaire’,” said Borders.
It was at a “Splat Party” with toy guns on Old McDuffie Road. The family says they believe there’s more than one shooter and Person was not the target.
McGhee said: “Now somebody’s gone that wasn’t even supposed to be gone. It wasn’t even supposed to be him.”
Over the last year, the I-TEAM started tracking homicides and suspicious deaths in the CSRA. Looking just at Richmond County, there’s been at least 44 deaths, almost all of them were shootings.
At least 31 of the 44 victims or 70 percent were male. At least six were 18 years old or younger and at least 17 of the 44 victims were 25 years old or younger.
“This is the biggest problem in this community. A lot of the kids don’t understand that death is permanent. It needs to stop,” said Borders.
Person’s mentors say this should be tough on the entire city because this shouldn’t happen to anyone.
“I’m not going to say turn yourself in because I know if you did this, you don’t have a conscience anyway, so you’re not going to turn yourself in, but you reap what you sow,” said Borders. “Everything comes back to you.”
Person’s funeral is on April 21. the viewing will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Celebration of Life Funeral Home.
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