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  • Nick Luhring

In the Wake of a Homicide

Photo Credit: By Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post

When a homicide occurs, the victim, having fallen to the ground, gets examined by professionals. A crime scene is blocked off, and detectives start to try to piece together the events that led to the loss of life. After some time, when the victim has been identified, their next of kin are contacted and given the horrific news. This was the call that ROOT, Inc. Founder and CEO Kenny Barnes, Sr. received after his son was shot and killed by a 17-year-old boy.

This year, 138 such heart-wrenching calls were attempted in the District of Columbia. 138 families have lost someone close to them, dealt with law enforcement to answer questions, arranged for memorial services, and grieved in their own way. In Baltimore, that number is 266…far too many troubling phone calls and news stories.

In the wake of a homicide, healing must come swift, and empowerment be the end goal. Such was the case for Kenny Barnes, Sr., who threw himself into the founding of ROOT, Inc. after finding out about his son’s murder. Armed with a knowledge of mental health and trained in Psychology (he has a Master of Science from the University of the District of Columbia), he formed relationships with key stakeholders to try to solve the problem of not just homicides, but suicides and genocides as well.

He helped develop and champion the program “Guns Aside” which offered pledge cards encouraging people to solve their disagreements peacefully. He spoke at many schools and community centers with the concrete message “Suicide, Homicide, Genocide, Guns Aside”. Efforts by community activists such as he and his cohorts have had a substantial effect. The murder rate in America has almost halved over the last two decades according to a report by the Office for Victims of Crime

Still, there is much more work to be done. The trends in Washington D.C. and Baltimore have been different than the rest of the country. In these cities, and a few others like Chicago and St. Louis, there has been an increase in the number of homicides per capita. These tragic circumstances, fueled by the lack of trust in our public institutions, must be addressed quickly and effectively. For upon which the model of peace is created, its replication becomes inevitable.

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