Zarriel Trotter, 13, has advocated against gun violence in Chicago
He was struck by the lower back by a stray bullet on Friday
In PSA, Trotter says: "People keep on getting shot, people keep on getting killed"
Zarriel Trotter joined other boys in a sobering public-service announcement last year to voice fear, hopelessness and sadness about gun violence on the streets of Chicago.
“I don’t want to live around my community where I’ve got to keep on hearing and hearing people keep on getting shot, people keep on getting killed,” Zarriel said in the video, which closes with the message: “The loss of a black boy is a loss for America.”
On Friday, the 13-year-old was shot in the lower back by a stray bullet fired during a heated argument on a street several blocks from his home, according to the principal of his school and the co-CEO of the firm that produced the video.
“It’s really heartbreaking to hear one of your students has been hurt in this way,” said Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn, principal at Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School, where Zarriel is a seventh-grader.
It was the kind of shooting Zarriel said in the video he was growing tired of hearing about in his community.
“He was an unintended target,” Jamison-Dunn said of the teenager.
Chicago has posted statistics for shootings for the first two months of the year. January saw 51 killings, making it the deadliest month on record in at least 16 years, CNN affiliate WGN reported. February had at least 43 killings.
The Chicago Tribune said the body count made it the deadliest start to a year in the city in nearly two decades. Police have reported that gun and homicide arrests are up.
“This is a war zone. People are afraid,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Catholic pastor who has gained national attention for his work with troubled young people, particularly those touched by violence.
“I know families who are telling their sons who are away at school or living outside Chicago not to come home for the summer,” Pfleger said.
On Twitter, Pfleger routinely keeps a tally of gun deaths and injuries with the hashtag #CHI-RAQ (as in Iraq), a reference to filmmaker Spike Lee’s movie about the blood-drenched city.
On Good Friday night, Zarriel was one of the more than a dozen people injured in shootings throughout the city, according to the Tribune.
“We’re praying he makes a full recovery,” Jamison-Dunn said. “He’s in our thoughts every day.”
The principal said Zarriel had surgery on Friday. Although originally listed in critical condition, Jamison-Dunn said the boy’s mother told her he’s improving.
“He was awake and showing strong progress,” Jamison-Dunn said.
The PSA Zarriel appeared in was part of the social media initiative “Black is Human” by Burrell Communications Group.
The video opens with the message,”The leading cause of death for black boys and teens: Homicide.”
“We want to show students the power of their voice,” Jamison-Dunn said of the project. “It’s their voice that’s now being heard across the nation in these videos.”
Fay Ferguson, the co-CEO of Burrell Communications, said of the shooting: “When we first heard about it, it was truly devastating – a lot of anger.”
In November, Chicago was rocked by the shooting death of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee in an alley on the city’s South Side.
The boy, who was shot multiple times in the face and back, was targeted because his father was a ranking gang member, according to authorities.