Shot to the System: Memphis children’s hospital overwhelmed by young shooting victims

The Investigators: Shot to the system

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - LeBonheur Children’s Hospital says it’s treated more gunshot victims this year than ever before.

As of November 10, the hospital had treated 109 children had been treated for bullet wounds, a record for the hospital.

Children aged 14-years-old and younger are treated at Le Bonheur, while those 15-years-old and older are sent to Regional One.

That’s where 17-year-old Demetrius Robinson was sent after he was shot this summer.

The WMC Action News 5 Investigators spoke with his aunt, who had custody of the teen.

“He was making videos everywhere he go. He got a job, he was even making videos in the bathroom,” Rosemary Williams said. “He was so happy. That made me feel so good.”

When the Whitehaven Senior wasn’t making people laugh, he was playing defensive end for the high school football team or working at a nearby donut shop.

Before his shift on Sept. 3, Demetrius wanted to go to the Marathon gas station on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

His aunt gave him some money and watched him leave.

“His friends picked him up, and they went to the store,” Williams said.

It didn’t take long for her cell phone to ring; her nephew had been shot.

“When I came up, I could see his shoes in the street so I knew it was him,” she said.

“What do you think is causing all this gun violence?” Asked The Investigators.

“I just don’t know,” Williams said. “Is they watching someone else? Or is it the gangs? Or is it the Corona? I don’t know.”

Violent crime has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.

Driving the increase is gun violence in both murders and aggravated assaults.

Murders are up an alarming 62.7% in Memphis and 55.1% countywide compared to last year.

One place the increase in gun violence is most apparent is Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

“It’s really, really, really horrible,” Dr. Regan Williams, who’s in charge of Pediatric Surgery at the hospital, said. “I think there might be less supervision because the children are out of school and so we’re seeing an increase in accidental firearm injuries.”

Accidental shootings happen when firearms are left unattended by parents and then accessed by children.

In March, a 9-year-old was accidentally shot and killed by a teenager in a home in Northeast Memphis.

A 13-year-old and 26-year-old were arrested and charged.

“We’re also seeing an increase in intentional firearms injuries so those are children out and about,” Dr. Williams said.

In April, Aison Golden was killed inside his home after bullets came through the front window.

Two men have been indicted for the 6-year-old’s murder.

“I don’t even think the perpetrators are thinking about the fact that the children are in the middle,” Dr. Williams said.

MPD has investigated 29 child homicides so far this year. At least eight remain unsolved.

Last month, MPD and the U.S. Marshals Service joined forces to offer a $50,000 reward for information on those murders.

Demetrius Robinson’s is one of them.

“I want to know who did it. I can’t rest,” his aunt said. “It bothers me very much. Sometimes I see some of his friends walk down the street, and I just cry because he not there."

After Demetrius was shot, he was rushed to Regional One Medical Center, which has also been pushed to the max.

“We are the only trauma center for this 150-mile radius region,” Dr. Peter Fischer, a Regional One trauma surgeon, said. “We’re seeing a very significant rise in patients who are shot 3, 4, 5 times. Once in the neck, once in the chest, once in the abdomen. That makes their care tremendously more complex.”

After gun violence claimed Demetrius Robinson’s life, Dana Taylor and Madeline Lyles prepared his body for burial at afterlife mortuary services in South Memphis.

“It’s disheartening to see our population and our generation is reducing to homicide,” Lyles said.

Last summer, the morticians held a summer camp for teens interested in alternative career paths. The women also hoped to teach a few life lessons.

“We wanted them to see how final death is and you only get one opportunity at life,” Taylor.said “ Make positive choices in your life because once you make it to the funeral home, that’s it.”

Losing a child is traumatic for any parent.

Even for the dozens who survive their gunshot wounds, the trauma lives on.

“You have a child who’s alive but can’t walk or can’t move their arms or is on a ventilator for the rest of their life,” said Dr. Williams. “We’ve had children who have been shot who refuse to leave their house after they’ve been shot because they’re so fearful of the neighborhood around them and getting injured again.”

Le Bonheur will soon provide counseling to child survivors.

Anxiety, fear and access to guns are reasons behind the gun violence increase during the pandemic says both Drs. Williams and Fischer.

Rosemary Williams agrees.

“We gotta find out what the solution is for this problem - all these guns. We gotta find a solution,” she said.

Since authorities have offered that $50,000 reward none of the child murders have been solved.

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