Precious Lives

Stories about kids, guns and how to stop the violence.

Precious Lives, created by 371 Productions, is a 2-year, 100-part weekly radio series about gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee area. The series applies a public health lens to each story to help listeners understand the full scope of the problem: who are the victims and the shooters; how are the weapons obtained; and what can we change about the environment that contributes to violence in Milwaukee? Explore the impact of gun violence on the community at large.

Learn more at Preciouslivesproject.org and to get help / give help, resources are available here.

Join the conversation on Facebook, follow the hashtag #PreciousLives on Twitter and subscribe for the podcast on iTunes.

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: Calvin Mattheis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

If you are between the ages of eight and 48, love basketball and live in Milwaukee’s central city…you’ve probably been a part of Warning’s basketball league. Over 40 years old, the Warning basketball league is the third oldest in the nation. It’s a rite of passage, and for many youth, it’s the place to be over the summer, wearing the colored t-shirt representing your team. But last year was a rough year for the league. Two players died within the first week - Tariq Akbar, 14 and Giovonnie Cameron, 13. Both were fatally shot.

Courtesy of 371 Productions

On Thursday, September 8th, Precious Lives host Eric Von died of a heart attack. He was 58.

In addition to being a journalist, Eric was a beloved community leader who touched many people along his path.

Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On August 13th, all eyes turned to Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. Protesters jumped on police cars and set buildings on fire, outraged over the police shooting of Sylville Smith.

There were 24 homicides in Milwaukee during August. According to Police Chief Edward Flynn, the monthly total was the highest in a quarter century - in fact, the most in a month’s time since serial killer Jeffery Dahmer’s victims were counted.

Flynn says he does not want to minimize the recent police killing of a young black man or the riots that followed, yet in the few hours beforehand five people were murdered.

Coburn Dukehart, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Last year in Milwaukee, close to 70 percent of gun homicide suspects possessed their guns illegally.

They wouldn’t have passed a background check. That was the case with Radcliffe Haughton.

Four years ago, he walked he into the Azana Spa with a semiautomatic handgun, killing three people and injuring four more.

Elvin Daniel lost his sister Zina that day, and it challenged his views on gun ownership laws.

Now, he’s committed to lobbying for universal background checks.

Corresponding Content:

Strong Public Support Fails to Move Wisconsin on Gun Background Checks

Aug 28, 2016
Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

On a Sunday afternoon nearly four years ago, Elvin Daniel was in his garden when he got a call from police: His sister, Zina Haughton, had been shot at work.

Mike De Sisti | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee zip code 53206 comes with a lot of labels: mass incarceration, poverty, violence.

Underneath those labels there’s a lot of pain, but there’s also a lot of love. Kimberley Zulkowski love her community.

"Love will make you a master at many things quickly," she says. "I love my community and I love the people in it."

She is from 53206 and says it’s hard to shake the labels. Kimberley's seen many people she knows leave in caskets.

And when homicides picked up in 2015, her connection grew deeper.

Michelle Maternowski

On Saturday, August 14th, a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed 23-year old Sylville Smith near the intersection of West Auer Avenue and North 44th Street.

The police department reported that Smith had a gun and refused to drop it. Details are still unfolding.

What we do understand is that in the Sherman Park neighborhood where this took place, tensions had been mounting for weeks.

Sylville’s death sparked peaceful protests, as well as violent unrest. Footage of buildings set aflame brought national attention to the Milwaukee and its struggles.

'This Weekend Wasn't an Isolated Event': Unpacking Milwaukee's Ongoing Tensions

Aug 15, 2016
Michelle Maternowski

After a fatal police shooting near Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood on Saturday, the area erupted into protests and chaos. For two consecutive nights, demonstrators took to the streets. Businesses were burned, people were injured, and Milwaukee's weekend of unrest made national headlines.

READ: WUWM's Complete Coverage of Milwaukee's Unrest

Photo courtesy of Jermaine Reed’s Facebook page

Black youth make up two-thirds of the kids in Milwaukee's foster care system.

This worries Jermaine Reed. He is determined to make foster care a more effective system -- especially for black youth.

He calls foster care an incubator for the criminal justice system.

Jermaine is the executive director of Fresh Start Family Services, Wisconsin’s first private placement agency run by an African American. He also hosts Fresh Start Today, a radio program on WNOV dedicated to educating the black community about child welfare.

Photo by Emily Forman

17-year-olds Tyrone Fleming and Simone Staples  love their new summer jobs. From 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, they get paid $12 an hour to stop violence in their neighborhoods, which includes walking up to guys arguing over a drug deal and persuading them against shooting.

Courtesy of Derrick Shoates

17-year-old Tommie Harbin was never in a gang, never dealt drugs, never carried a gun. Avoiding violence never seemed that hard.

Tommie kept busy. Mostly, he played basketball. Because when he plays basketball, he feels most like himself.

Still Tommie got shot. And now he has to rely on the same mental toughness - the kind that earned him recognition as a basketball star to bounce back. But it’s not easy.

John Klein / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Destiny Boone remembers her daughter Za'layia as a sassy, creative girl who loved to rap, write and help take care of her younger siblings.

Destiny is still wrapping her head around losing her nine-year-old daughter. Za’layia was the victim of a stray bullet that struck her during a shootout on May 5th, 2016.

As the family copes with the loss of a child, Destiny’s aunt, Ramona, is working to make sure Za’layia is never forgotten.

Photo courtesy of Beverley Moore

Beverley Moore grew up amid gun violence in the inner city. When she became a mom, she made the decision to move to the suburbs because she worried about her son's safety.

For the most part, Beverley has found what she was looking for: a sense of peace and relaxation.

But even now, guns are a fairly ubiquitous part of her life. Her friends have lost loved ones, her ex-husband’s job keeps him in close proximity to violence, and the families she works with in the foster care system are often impacted by gun violence.

Emily Forman / Precious Lives

Say a tornado hits Milwaukee today. What would people need? Temporary shelter, house repairs, family counseling, financial planning support.

Well, when there’s a drive-by shooting and a little girl dies, her family needs a lot of the same things. Although shootings aren’t natural, emergency disaster relief strategies completely apply.

This is one way Milwaukee chaplains with the Salvation Army have been trained to deal with trauma.

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