He treated every room like a stage. Then he was gunned down walking with friends.

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Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series profiling American youth killed this year by guns, a leading cause of death of children in the US. Read more about the project here.


Eric Gregory Brown III treated every room like a stage. Always ready to dance and perform, he moved fast and used words too big for a 12-year-old to know.

Like an old soul born to be a star, Eric loved to entertain and bring smiles to everyone around him – and always found an adoring audience in his family, said Mary Joseph, Eric’s grandaunt.

“God knew that he would only have 12 years, but we didn’t,” Joseph said.

More about Eric

  • Died May 10, 2023
  • Age at death: 12
  • Status of investigation: Two suspects in custody and awaiting trial.
  • Eric was killed on May 9 in Long Beach, California, when someone in an approaching car shot him and fired at two other children as they were walking in a residential neighborhood, according to Long Beach police. His friend, a 14-year-old girl he often met with after school, was wounded.

    Two people were arrested in July in connection with the drive-by shooting, police said. Each was charged that month with offenses including murder and attempted murder, court documents show.

    Police have no reason to believe the suspects knew the children, and investigators believe the shooting stemmed from “an earlier gang altercation not involving the victims,” Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish told reporters.

    Eric is one of more than 1,300 children and teens killed by a gun so far in 2023 in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Firearms became the No. 1 killer of children and teens in the US in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, which had long been the leading cause of death among America’s youth.

    Eric, the second of five children, left behind a loving family that on August 3 marked his 13th birthday without him, balancing unimaginable grief with a desire to celebrate him.

    The family made a life-sized cardboard cutout of Eric and wore his photo on their chests, released balloons, lit candles and listened to music to honor his life.

    “Now that he’s gone, we always wear a shirt that has his picture on it so he’s not excluded or absent from what we’re doing,” Eric’s mother, Angela Washington, said. “I love my son to death.”

    Washington especially will miss listening to music with Eric on car rides to Walmart, where he loved to check out the electronics section, she said.

    She’ll also miss Eric stomping around in her shoes, and him sitting with her as they munched on ice, she said. “We always ate ice together,” she recalled.

    “We’re still heartbroken,” his cousin Laquioa Joseph said. “We still come together, and we try to push through.”

    The family takes comfort in the happy, laughter-filled memories they have of Eric, many of them focused on his fondness for music and his tendency to put on skits and dances.

    Eric and his mother, Angela Washington.

    Laquioa Joseph recalled Eric’s love for hip-hop and the gleaming smile he had when he performed. “Whenever he got the chance to be the center of attention, he would always have that big smile,” she recalled.

    “He will come in and flip on that song he knew, and he performed like he was the artist,” Mary Joseph recalled. “He’d light up a stage, and there wasn’t even a stage.”

    Video from a family dance contest at a home in Compton shows Eric, donning red Crocs and a bright orange shirt, swaying, shuffling and grooving to music as his family cheered and laughter filled the room. “My boy fire,” one person is heard saying as Eric danced, mouthing the lyrics.

    Read other profiles of children who’ve died from gunfire

    As soon as he learned to work an iPad and make a TikTok account, Eric was dancing for a social media audience, she said. “He was very theatrical and always moving, always grooving, always entertaining, always laughing, always loving,” Mary Joseph said.

    Eric brought his talents to a real stage, too, joining a dance ensemble that practiced weekly and often garnered praise and attention. He received an award at a community center for his performances, Mary Joseph said.

    Eric loved to perform for his family, and could turn any room into a stage.

    When he wasn’t performing, playing outside or texting with his cousins, the 12-year-old loved helping his mother take care of his younger siblings. “He kind of took on the role as the man of the house,” Mary Joseph said.

    “He cooked, he cleaned, he changed diapers and he helped babysit. He didn’t like that part, babysitting all three,” his mother said with a chuckle.

    The year before he died, Eric went to a summer Christian camp for the first time with his cousins and had a great time meeting people of different backgrounds and learning biblical standards. The children returned already making plans to attend the next year, Mary Joseph said.

    “They did this year’s camp, and it was without Eric,” she said. “It was so sad.”

    Eric was a happy, outgoing boy who lit up every room he walked into and had a special knack for making people laugh, his family said.

    “Although he only got to live 12 years here, what a beautiful spirit,” Mary Joseph said. “He was never to be forgotten. He left such a mark on this Earth. His gentle but hard, humble spirit was such a blessing.”

    “Now that he is deceased, it seemed like he did everything fast because maybe in his inner spirit, he knew that he would only be here 12 years,” Joseph said.

    Sumber: www.cnn.com

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