Two California children were shot Sunday as they walked to a gas station to buy snacks, according to several news reports.
The Associated Press reported that 12-year-old Jason Spears and his 14-year-old cousin Terrance Spears were shot as they walked to a convenience store in a gang-ridden section of San Bernardino. The boys were able to run to the convenience store, but Jason later died. Terrance survived the shooting and was released from the hospital on Monday. Police are still gathering information on the shooting. A black SUV was seen fleeing the scene of the crime.
Elisa Castro, who was at the store renting a video, tried to help the boys.
“I seen the other little boy go inside limping because he was shot in the leg and the other one collapsed right here on his jaw,” said Castro in an interview with The San Bernardino Sun. “I turned him over and was telling him, ‘Please baby boy, breathe.’ I just don’t understand why they would do this.”
Shaunte Spears, Jason’s aunt, expressed anger at the shooting.
“We sit at our house. We talk to our neighbors. That’s it,” she said in an interview with The Riverside Press-Enterprise. “Now my sister has to bury her 12-year-old son. For what? Because he went to the store to get some chips?”
Mohmed Dneivi, Spears’ stepfather, told The San Bernardino Sun the boys were too young to be involved in any form of gang activity.
“These are kids. They are not 18 or 19-year-olds. When you’re 12 years old you don’t know nothing about the streets,” he said.
The shooting took place in San Bernardino, which is 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The city, which is about 60 percent Latino and 15 percent Black, has been struggling with economic and political problems for years. The city suffered a major economic downturn when the Norton Air Force Base shut down in 1994. In 2012, the city filed for bankruptcy. A Los Angeles Times article ranked San Bernardino second to Detroit in poverty. The LA Times also said the county assessor was arrested for meth use and a city council member was arrested for perjury.
According to The San Bernardino Sun, the shooting took place near Highland and Orange around several apartment complexes. The apartments are part of the city’s Crime Free Multi-Housing program, which requires residents to go through background checks and keep the property maintained. The Sun said last summer authorities conducted a sweep which netted several arrests.
“They got a lot of people out of here and then others just moved out, but the problem is they still have friends or family here and they keep coming back,” said Vincent Brewer, a local resident.
The city has dealt with crime-ridden apartment complexes in the past by simply shutting them down.
The shooting was the city’s 15th homicide this year. San Bernardino was also the scene of a terrorist attack in December, when ISIS sympathizers Syed Rizwan Farooq and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people at a holiday party.