On Sunday, April 12, the family of Kirsten Williams gathered for an emotional vigil to mourn the loss of the 7-year-old who was killed in a drive-by shooting on April 10. Williams was playing outside with her friends when men in an SUV drove up and fired multiple rounds at the house. Williams died of a gunshot wound.
"I don't even know how I'm going to make it without her," Teresa Davis, Williams' grandmother, said tearfully to WMC Action News 5 during the vigil.
Family members prayed that arrests would be made before Williams’ funeral, and so far, three men have been arrested. Jordan Clayton, 21, Branden Brookins, 19, and Carl Johnson, 19, were all arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with Williams’ death. Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, who announced the first two arrests on Wednesday, says that the men are members of local street gangs.
Police believe that Williams was the unintended victim of a retaliatory attack for a drug-related shooting committed in the neighborhood the previous night.
“We do know someone at that house was the intended target, but we have not been able to determine if Kirsten Williams was the target,” said Armstrong on Thursday.
Both Brookins and Clayton have criminal records, Armstrong said, but Clayton’s record is far more violent. In the past, Clayton has faced aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, domestic assault and aggravated assault charges, while Brookins has faced misdemeanors which were later dropped.
According to the Tennessee Gang Investigators Association, with approximately 9,100 documented gang members, and 170 documented gangs and subsets in the Memphis area, gang violence is not new in Memphis. Another girl, 15-year-old Cateria Stokes, was killed while she slept in her bed on April 10, when over two dozen rounds were fired at her house. The police have not made any arrests in her murder case and are not sure if the two shootings are related.
According to WMC Action News 5, people in Williams’ neighborhood have been afraid to speak out about the shooting, worried that those involved in the drive-by are still at large.
Putting the three men behind bars will not bring Williams back, but her family feels a little more at peace, believing that now at least one person might be kept safer. The family expressed gratitude to the police for taking action.
"We are very pleased that the arrests are made," said Williams' great aunt, Debbie Davis, according to WMC Action News 5.
Williams’ burial is planned for Saturday at the Soul Winners Church in Hickory Hill.
“Anyone that came over to the house, most kids are sometimes a little shy and don’t want to be around people but that wasn’t Kirsten,” said Williams’ great uncle, Norris Hamilton, to WREG. “Love your family, watch your little ones.”
Image Source: legacy.com