Turn the tide of teen killing in Charlotte

Ashante Mayfield, 14, lived a short, turbulent life. It ended this week in gunfire when police said she became murder victim No. 5 who was age 18 or younger in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Two days later, 15-year-old William Adams died after being shot in a park. Police said he was youth murder victim No. 6.

The loss of those two young lives – along with the four others shot and killed this year – is a waste this community cannot afford. We should be outraged by those numbers, and determined to turn around this tide of teen killing.

Look at their faces. They were not all angels. But they were all too young to die. Too much of their lives lay ahead to have them snuffed by senseless, needless violence.

Here are some of their stories:

Joshua Jackson, age 12, was killed Feb. 17 when a gunman sprayed a parking lot at a Masonic temple where a birthday party was being held.

Jacques Timbers, 18, was shot June 5 in the chest at an apartment complex in west Charlotte.

Brothers Josh Davis, 17, and Terry Long, 18, were shot to death June 29 on a west Charlotte street. A 17-year-old is accused of killing them.

Now, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old have joined the deadly circle.

Almost all these deaths share similarities. All died from gunfire. Many, but not all, lived troubled lives that flirted with lawbreaking. Most were young men, and all were African-American.

Pay close attention to that last fact in particular. It fits a deadly, disturbing pattern. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among juveniles age 12-17, blacks are five times as likely as whites to be homicide victims.

That statistic affects every aspect of a community, and everyone who lives in it. It cannot be changed unless every aspect of a community mounts the will to change it. Charlotte-Mecklenburg must.

How? Law enforcement alone will not do the job. This community must invest more broadly in prevention such as after-school programs. We must strengthen gun laws. Courts must be able to deliver meaningful punishment the first time laws are broken.

Why? Look at the faces. We all pay dearly for the loss of that potential.

This deadly spurt of violence stands as a direct challenge to Charlotte-Mecklenburg: Turn the tide of teen killing.