Annette Freeman will never forget where she was October 13, 1992. It was a day that changed her life and shook Chicago deeply.
“I’ll never forget it was Tuesday and they had just gone back to school, it was the first day back,” she said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to go to school today’ and I said, ‘You know you don’t miss school!'”
Seconds later, Freeman’s 7-year-old son, Dantrell Davis, was hit in the head by a sniper bullet while she was taking him to Jenner School across the street from their home on the Cabrini Green housing project.
“I’m from where I can make out the sounds of gunshots, so I heard it, I could only turn around and say, ‘Duck Danny!’ But at that moment he was already on the ground. “
Freeman said she quickly realized that there was nothing she could do to save her son.
“The first bullet hit Danny,” she recalled. “The first was – Danny was hit in the cheek.
On October 13, 1992, 7-year-old Dantrell Davis was shot dead in the Cabrini Green residential project when his mother Annette Freeman was taking him to school. She tells her story from that day, 29 years later.
Chicago reacted in shock. And outrage. In a front-page editorial, the Chicago Sun-Times stated, “Dantrell Davis was our kid … we let him down.”
Hundreds of policemen shouted in Cabrini-Green. A gang member named Anthony Garrett was arrested for the shooting. Police said he got a series of shots from a window at 10th that morning. Dantrell was the only hit.
Garrett would eventually be tried and sentenced and serving a 100-year prison term. The units on the first floor of Cabrini were bricked up and metal detectors were installed in the lobbies. The then chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority Vincent Lane asked the National Guard to patrol the buildings.
That year a street was named after Dantrell, and a presidential candidate named Bill Clinton mentioned the seven-year-old’s name in a speech.
But 29 years later, kids aged Dantrell and younger continue to die in Chicago. And his mother asks why so few people remember their names.
“It’s like people are sweeping it under the rug now or making it the new norm,” she said. “And it’s not! We can never get used to our babies dying!”
In an apartment in the suburbs, a man from the Chicago area tries to do all he can. For security reasons, he asked NBC 5 to call him by his first name, Steve. But on his website, gunmemorial.org, he has made it his business to document every deadly shootout in the United States.
“Our goal is to humanize every victim of gun violence to ensure that the story of every victim is told,” he said. “Right now we have 87,000 pages for 87,000 victims on the site over the past six years.”
Steve doesn’t make any difference. Some are victims of violent crimes. Others, crimes of passion. There are accidental shootings. And suicides. The common thread is that everyone died from gunshots.
“There are many stories, many tragedies, many senseless losses,” he says. “Even if you just look at the murders – 40 to 45 a day – it’s shocking, isn’t it?”
Steve told NBC 5 that his website receives up to 20,000 visitors a day, many of them family members or friends of the victims. He has erected a memorial to several members of the same family. And to keep up with the deaths, he has a stall of volunteers who help update the stories.
“It’s not just Chicago,” he notes. “What happens in Chicago is tragic, but it’s all kinds of communities – rural communities, suburbs, all kinds of people, all kinds of situations.”
When asked if he sees anything in common among the victims, Steve pauses and ponders. Yes, he says, worldly disputes that only became fatal because a weapon was available.
“If there wasn’t a gun, would someone have a black eye or a trip to the emergency room for, I don’t know, stitches?” he said. “But instead they are dead.”
Steve says he didn’t create the site to express a political opinion. And on his part, he takes no position on firearms. Above all, he wants to tell the stories of the victims.
“You will judge for yourself whether this is a loss that we as a society should take into account,” he said.
Gun violence continues in Chicago. While the number of murders in the city peaked in 1992, the year Dantrell died, 3,567 people were shot dead in Chicago that year, according to police. 352 of them were under 18 years of age. There were a total of 637 murders that year, including 43 young people.
“Please don’t make this the norm,” pleaded Dantrell’s mother. “I have to pray to God that He will help us. But first we have to help ourselves. Please. I’m just saying, don’t make it the norm. Don’t get used to it!”