What had been scheduled as a press conference to announce the commemoration of the 1963 Birmingham campaign began with an emotional Mayor Randall Woodfin speaking on the death of a 12-year-old girl killed in her bed by gunfire directed at her home in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
At approximately 1:51 a.m. on Wednesday, a 12-year-old girl identified by the Jefferson County Coroner’s office as Audriana Pearson, sustained gunshot wounds during a reported assault at the 500 block of 16th Avenue near Center Point.
“I’m usually able to stand before you and talk about crime; We have homicides in our city, but it’s different, very different when it’s an innocent child,” Woodfin said. “I’m usually able to stand up here and have all the strength to push past however I feel about the situation. I guess this one just hits differently because it’s an innocent child.”
Woodfin said that Pearson, known as “Minnie”, had been struck with gunfire fired into her home. Seventeen rounds in total were fired into the home, according to Woodfin.
“Our families and our children deserve better,” Woodfin said.
In a statement released by the Birmingham Police Department later on Wednesday morning, the department said the incident was being investigated as a homicide.
“The inability to control one’s anger and have peaceful conflict management continues to plague our city,” the department said. “Families are left hurting, angry, and suffering at the hands of others, and we are tired of our communities being ravaged by senseless murder. No family deserves to face the murder of a loved one, especially when the victim is a child who should have had many more years ahead to learn and grow. Children deserve to be safe at home with their families and enjoying the holiday season.”
The city council and mayor’s office have backed a number of different programs aimed at curbing the rising number of violent incidents and gun deaths in Birmingham. The most recent of such programs was announced in late November, when the Birmingham City Council approved $1 million in funds for a conflict resolution program to be taught in Birmingham City Schools meant to address anger management through in an “evidence-based, culturally relevant” curriculum.
Despite these efforts, the number of homicides in Birmingham is increasing to levels never before seen in the city’s history.
“I have my hands tied behind my back by state law, and I have a blindfold on by the non-movement of the federal government,” Woodfin said. “Both of those tiers of governments above municipal government have a power to do something about gun laws in America, and gun laws in the state of Alabama, and one is choosing to do the opposite and the other is not doing anything.”
On the first of the year, a law ending the legal requirement to obtain a permit before concealing a firearm on one’s person and in a vehicle will go into full effect. The law was criticized and opposed by members of the Democratic caucus in both chambers of the state legislature who said it would create a threat to public safety. Law enforcement officials also spoke out against the measures, stating that the law would remove a valuable tool law enforcement uses to arrest individuals with illegal weapons.
“If I had the power, gun laws would be different in Birmingham than anywhere else in the state of Alabama since it’s an actual Birmingham problem,” Woodfin said. “But I don’t have home rule, so I’m not given that authority.”
In the early morning hours the following Thursday, a woman was found by police shot and killed in the western precinct of Birmingham, marking the city’s 141st homicide this year, according to Al.com.