Another life tragically lost

On Aug. 9, a 13-year-old boy from Wisconsin was shot and killed while visiting family in Cleveland Heights.  This tragic loss breaks my heart and I offer my deepest condolences to his family and friends.  

According to Police Chief Mecklenburg, this was not a random or accidental event. A 14-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with this crime and a 16-year-old, who is also wanted, remains at large. 

Whenever there is the loss of a young life, several questions arise, but none have easy or simple answers.

First, we have to wonder, how did a 14-year-old gain access to a gun? With no blame being suggested for this current tragedy, there is the larger question about the ease with which young people can get guns. Let’s allow this case to be a reminder to gun owners who are parents, and all adults who have children of any age in their homes, to put locks on their guns and store them away safely.

When I was the senior legal counsel for the Cuyahoga County Department of Children & Family Services, and chief prosecutor for the city of Cleveland, I witnessed too many cases where children found a gun that a parent thought had been carefully hidden; the gun caused injury to the child or someone else. If you think your child does not know where your gun is—think again. Put a lock on it. 

Second question: What went through the mind of a 14-year-old to make him think that shooting was a solution to anything? Did he play too many violent video games—maybe. Were there too few recreational opportunities to occupy his time and energy—probably.

As a city, we need to make a commitment to increase our investment in facilities and programs that provide attractive and constructive outlets for youthful energy and curiosity. We need to ensure that parents and teens are aware of the activities in our community that they would enjoy. We must invest more in our children. 

For the most part, Cleveland Heights is a safe city. When I last spoke with Chief Mecklenburg, she said she had 11 vacant positions for officers. Recruiting, screening and hiring police officers has become a nationwide challenge. We must attract more young people, women, and minorities to these important public service positions. A diverse, well-trained police force helps ensure a safer community.

Barbara Danforth

Barbara Danforth is a 22-year resident of CH, living in the Forest Hill Historical District. A candidate for Cleveland Heights mayor, she is the former chief prosecutor, city of Cleveland; and former CEO of YWCA Greater Cleveland.

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Volume 14, Issue 9, Posted 12:20 PM, 08.23.2021