I woke up the morning of May 26, 2016, on edge. I could not put my finger on it, but I had the sinking feeling something really bad was going to happen that day.
I went to work at a local attorney’s office and, throughout the day, I kept making mistakes, which was out of character for me. I could not concentrate, nor could I shake the feeling of impending doom.
Little did I know this gut feeling of something really bad was going to happen would turn out to be the death of my Mother due to gun violence.
My Mother, Birdell Beeks, and my daughter, Ne’Asha, were running errands that day. My Mother had been suffering from a number of health issues including diabetes, kidney failure, high blood pressure, and most recently—colon cancer. As a result, Ne’Asha had gone with her that morning to take a test in hopes of becoming a Personal Care Attendant for my Mother. She was so excited about the prospect of working for her grandmother and taking care of her needs.
All of the grandchildren and the kids in her neighborhood affectionately called my Mother “Nanny.” Her door was always open —whether they were hungry or just needed a safe place to hang out.
After work, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up dinner. Leaving from the grocery store, Ne’Asha called me to say she and her Nanny were going to a local child care center to pick up a job application for her before heading home. I informed Ne’Asha that the center was closed for the day, and she passed that along to her Nanny, telling her they could just head home.
Within seconds of hanging up, Ne’Asha called back. This time, she was frantic and screaming. She was so upset that I could not understand her, so I pleaded with her to calm down. She urged me to come quickly—my Mother had been shot. As I was on my way home, I panicked and I quickly detoured in the direction I knew they were coming from. I eventually was able to get Ne’Asha calm enough to get their exact location.
When I arrived, the streets had been blocked off and there were police cars everywhere. I had to park a block away. I ran as fast as I could down the street toward the scene and saw paramedics lifting my Mother into the ambulance. Her bloodstained dress lay on the ground.
I looked over to see Ne’Asha sitting in the back of a police car and was told I could not join her because she was a witness to the shooting. Ne’Asha struggles with anxiety and was distraught, so I pleaded with the officers until they allowed me to get in the car and comfort my child.
We sat in that car in shock and completely unaware of my Mother’s condition for what seemed like an eternity.
Eventually, an officer took us to City Hall where detectives interviewed Ne’Asha. When the interview was over, Ne’Asha asked if we could leave. “I need to make sure my Nanny is okay,” she said.
The detectives looked at one another, and we knew it then: my Mother was no longer with us.
My Mother was an innocent victim of the gun violence crisis that has plagued the north side of Minneapolis for many years. She did not deserve to die. She was doing what she enjoyed doing—spending time with her granddaughter and running everyday errands. But while waiting at a stop sign just a couple of miles from her home she was struck by a bullet intended for another target. The bullet entered her arm and pierced her heart. Doctors worked on her for nearly two hours but they could not save her. Ne’Asha said her Nanny’s last words were, “Baby, they got me! Baby, they got me!” As a result of this horrific experience, Ne’Asha now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
As of December 27, 2016, no one has been arrested for the murder of my precious Mother—the beloved matriarch of our family and a pillar of the community in which her very life was taken. My family and I have worked tirelessly, to no avail, to find those responsible. Several similarly terrible situations have taken place in north Minneapolis in the summer of 2016 and the community is reluctant to speak up for fear of retaliation or being shot themselves. Whenever someone tells me they are too afraid to speak up I respond to them by saying, “But if you don’t speak up, you too could be an innocent victim of gun violence in our community.”
Today, I am a member of the Everytown Survivor Network and the Minnesota chapter of Moms Demand Action for
Gun Sense in America. Whenever I can, I share my Mother’s story to keep her memory alive and to inspire others to act. The simple fact is, there is a murderer walking around in our community who may still be in possession of a firearm. Something must be done to keep him, and others like him, from taking another innocent life. We can start by advocating for gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, including felons. While it won’t bring my Mother back, just maybe another family will be spared this unimaginable pain my family is going through.
I will never stop seeking justice for my Mother, Birdell Beeks, and I will remain a passionate advocate for gun safety until meaningful action is taken.
This piece is by Sa’Lesha Beeks, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network and the Minnesota chapter of Moms Demand Action. If you have been personally affected by gun violence and would like to share your story with Moms Demand Action, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.