“Always on the run from violence”: Salem teens share accounts of surging shootings

Salem law enforcement, neighborhood and community leaders were on the panel at Salem Reporter’s Town Hall on Gun Violence Thursday night. They described the city’s recent increase in shootings and gave directions on how the community can help curb the crisis.

Then came the surprise guests.

Salem Reporter visited the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center to hear directly from teenagers being impacted by the violence. 

A recent report found that while teens aren’t assailants or victims in most of the city’s shootings, their involvement is on the rise.

Eleven teens provided written accounts of their experiences with gun violence to be shown on screen at the town hall. They were each asked two questions.

Two of them recorded their responses to be played at the event.

Below are all the responses Salem Reporter received from Marion County teenagers. Responses were edited slightly for clarity.

What impact has gun violence had on your life?

“Gangs and shooters are everywhere … My friend was in the wrong place, the wrong time. He was 16, he was funny, never skipped school, liked to ride his skateboard. He had two older brothers who loved him a lot.”

“Sometimes, you go outside and you feel like you ain’t safe … “It’s pretty hard. Sometimes I just meditate (to) myself: are we going to make it to 21?”

“My homie got shot. He started screaming. I tried to go back for him but they kept chasing and shooting me. I got grazed on the leg but got away. My homie passed away from the shot.”

“Always on the run from violence.”

“My homie got shot. And I also lost a homie who chose the gang life and end up losing his life.”

“I been shot two times and I shot back. And one of my homies died from gun violence and I went to where my opps stay at and shot at them.”

“Nowadays, it feels like you need a gun, you need a vest to go outside … I’ve seen stuff I could never unsee and shouldn’t have seen at the age of 14.”

“To be honest, I got some clothes from my P.O. and I’m gonna get some more incentives from my P.O when I get out that’s some of the positives, but some negative is when I go to a family reunion or something like (that).”

“The home ain’t here with us no more.”

“Got shot.”

If you could ask the police anything, what would you ask them?

“Why do you have to be so rough with kids? … “You shut me in the car and said, ‘Your life is over.’ I’m only 17.”

“Why do they see Chicano, Mexican, brown people as the enemy or a danger to society?”

“Why are most cops/mostly white cops hella racist towards people of color?!?”

Why do you see a black or Mexican gangbanger (as) more of a threat than a white gangster?

“Why are they rough with juveniles?”

“Why do you guys pay attention to a juvenile that steals cars when there’s people out there doing way worse?”

“Why do you profile me?”

“Why do you only focus on the bad that individuals do and not talk about the good that the person does?”

“Why are cops racist towards people of color?”

“Why are you guys mostly white?”


PHOTO: Hundreds attend Salem’s Town Hall on Gun Violence, listening to 5 experts

Cooperation, resources for young people key to addressing shootings, Salem experts say

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.