In the midst of Wednesday’s scorching heat, family members, friends and neighbors united by grief and determination gathered to pray and to demand justice for the murder of 17-year-old Ashuntice Wilburn of Westmont.
Her grandmother, speaking through tears, lamented the pain of losing a loved one to senseless violence.
“Something is wrong in this society that we live in,” said Patty Ringo of Austin. “I can’t relax, my granddaughter, she ain’t laying in my bed, she ain’t laying on her mama’s bed — she is laying on a slab that’s cold, no life”
Wilburn, whom friends and family described as a vibrant teenager with aspirations of becoming a dental hygienist, would have attended high school as a senior this fall. She also volunteered at the Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, her grandmother’s church. Her dedication to service made her loss even more devastating, friends and family said.
Wilburn died Aug. 19 after she was shot in Galewood Park in Austin, and her vigil also served for those there as a somber reminder of the broader issue at hand.
She was one of two teenagers shot and killed that day. A 16-year-old boy who was with her was shot in the leg and released. That weekend alone, 38 people were shot and seven died. They’re among the 430 homicides and 2,035 shooting victims in Chicago this year so far.
Ringo organized a candlelight vigil Wednesday through her church to pray for “youth and demanding justice for the culprits who shot and killed Ashuntice Wilburn,” she wrote in a text to supporters. More than a dozen individuals, including family and community members gathered in Galewood Park in the heat. Reverend Ira J. Acree of the Greater St. John Bible Church led the group in prayer.
“My dear member’s 17-year-old granddaughter got gunned down like a dog!!! This is UNACCEPTABLE! When in the hell will we as a community demand that this genocide stop?!,” Acree said on his Facebook page. “The groans and screams from the parents and grandparents who just lost a loved one is unbearable! STOP THE MADNESS!!”
Holding hands in a circle, attendees shared tales of Ashuntice’s positive impact and her promising future.
Her grandmother, determined to channel her grief into action, voiced a plea for reform and gun control.
“I promise you everything in me, I’m not gonna let it rest,” she said. “We’ve got to do better. Where’s the reform? Where’s the gun control? Where is it? Somebody tell me, please, where is it?”