Behind the violence: A family's struggle to move on

Listen to this story: 
February 20, 2012 - 6:00pm

On a recent winter evening, 27-year-old Andre, who didn't want to give his last name, sat watching a college basketball game with a childhood friend. He sat in an electric wheelchair, just a few feet from the television.

"I sit at home all day," he said.

Photo by Ben Bohall, KVNO News

Forty-one people were killed in Omaha in 2011.

NET News

Visit the "Gang Fight: Nebraska" website to watch the NET News documentary and additional video segments, listen to radio stories and access links to reports and other information.

Andre used to own a jewelry shop in North Omaha. For about four years, he specialized in removable jeweled teeth plates, a popular item among teens and rappers.

But in 2009, Andre's business was targeted by two men.

"I don't know if they were trying to rob me, or trying to rob (the store) to get their order. I don't think they had the money to pay for it, so that's why, I think, it went the way it went," Andre said.

"Basically guns was pulled, and I had a choice to either protect myself or be dead, so I had to do what I had to do," he said.

Andre fatally shot both men in what he said was self-defense. No criminal charges were filed against him. But that incident led to two others, which he believes was in retaliation for what happened. About six months later, he said he was shot at while driving. A few months after that, he was shot at again, and this time he was hit.

Andre is now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, but he said he's thankful he's still alive.

"When stuff like this happens your life changes," he said. "You look at life different, so of course everything I look at right now is different."

Sadie Bankston is the founder and executive director of People Uniting, Leading Support & Encouragement, or PULSE, a non-profit group that works with families of homicide victims.

"We're sort of like Humpty Dumpty," Bankston said. "We try to put the pieces back together,"

In 1991, Bankston lost her son to gun violence, and she said since then she's been reaching out to families in similar situations. She said the community is in pain and feels a sense of hopelessness.

"There are so many kids that are hurting, and they can't study because they are thinking about their uncles, their daddies and their brothers being murdered," she said. "And they're getting failing grades because of it."

Bankston said gun violence creates a domino effect in the community.

"The perils of going out for retaliation because you'll end up dead or in prison yourself," she said. "Then, there goes your mother's pain, your family's pain again."

Back at Andre's home, one of his four children played with his sister Nicole's step-son.

"I've taken on the role of a sister, a care-giver, a therapist, a babysitter, someone to lean on," Nicole said.

She and her brother grew up in Omaha in a middle-class family, she said; Andre always had an entrepreneurial spirit and worked independently, she added, but now, he depends on others to take care of him.

"That's hurtful," she said, tearfully.

"You see your family, and you're just like he is somebody and he does need help," she continued. "I don't believe anybody should be left in the shadows."

Though Andre knows he will never walk again, he's looking toward his future. He said he's taking GED classes at Metropolitan Community College and going to physical therapy twice a week. He said he has to keep a strong mind for his children.

"Only thing I'm thinking about is my kids right now," he said. "(I'm) trying to get physically back in shape as much (as I can) but right now it's just my kids - nothing else really."

"You have to look forward to doing something better than what the streets is offering," he said. "Because they ain't really offering nothing."




blog comments powered by Disqus