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‘I want people to know that Izaiah was your kid – your daughter, your son,’ says mother who lost her 16-year-old to gun violence

By Emma Tucker, CNN

(CNN) — Michelle Hines described her oldest child as a “big brother to everybody,” a blossoming teenager who was a natural caretaker and leader.

Hines was the first among her friends to have a child, giving birth to Izaiah Carter when she was 17. “He was my first child, and because he was my first child, I grew up with him. As I was going through college, he was sitting on my hip and I was reading psych books to him,” said Hines, a developmental disability services coordinator.

When Izaiah turned 3, Hines was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Even at his early age, Izaiah seemed to notice when she had a relapse episode. He saw when she was in pain; he saw when she fell and couldn’t walk properly. He became naturally compassionate, and Hines said she could see it in his eyes.

At just 16 years old, Izaiah Carter was gunned down in the east Baltimore neighborhood of Joseph Lee on March 6 near his school, Patterson High School. A 23-year-old man was eventually arrested and charged with first-degree murder in his death, police said. Authorities found the suspect in Texas roughly two weeks after Izaiah’s senseless killing and he was extradited back to Baltimore, where he’s currently being held awaiting his first court hearing in November, according to the Baltimore City Circuit Court.

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

Read other profiles of children who’ve died from gunfire

Empathetic and caring, preoccupied with the well-being of his family members and classmates, Izaiah went about his young life with an innate compassion for others, Hines said. He was a role model and guardian to his 15-year-old brother Amari and 13-year-old sister Micayla. In high school, Izaiah joined the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, training as a cadet in the hopes of realizing his dream to join the Air Force after his graduation.

Hines is still in agony over the loss of her first-born, her “exceptional child.”

“I’m literally just learning a new life. Learning how to breathe and walk differently without him,” Hines said. She wants others to know that what happened to Izaiah could just as easily happen to another child, to another family.

“I want people to know that Izaiah was your kid – your daughter, your son. Izaiah was your child,” Hines said.

Izaiah could never conceal his true feelings, though at times he tried. Hines laughed as she recalled moments when she said she would turn into a “dragon,” putting on a deep voice and forcing herself to be stern. Izaiah always knew she was just acting and sometimes pretended to be angry as well, but he could never keep a stern face, Hines added.

“His tell was laughter. He was not good at lying because he would just laugh. He would always tell on himself,” she said.

His mother also called him the “king of music” – a passion of his that deepened as he began to make his own music. It’s something Hines notes she didn’t even know while her son was still alive.

“He was singing and trying to make beats with his friends in the auditorium with their music teacher,” Hines said. While his music taste was broad, she says Izaiah’s biggest inspirations were NLE Choppa, SZA, Snoh Aalegra and Eminem.

Her son always connected his phone to Bluetooth or aux in her car – or any car – to play his music, Hines said. It’s now a painful, lingering memory. “One of the things that has been hard for me is to erase his phone from the car,” Hines said.

The disbelief and outrage over Izaiah’s loss is still raw, especially among the many children – young cousins, family friends and neighbors – who regularly congregated at the Hines home after school or on weekends. Hines said there could be at least 15 to 20 little children over at her house at a time, and Izaiah was a constant guiding presence.

In the aftermath of Izaiah’s death, Hines said the children constantly told her: “We gonna get ‘em,” referring to the person responsible for Izaiah’s death.

But Izaiah’s bond with his younger brother Amari was a particularly special gift, Hines said. Diagnosed with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, at a young age, Amari would easily get distracted, but Izaiah was always there to direct him, she said.

“In the pictures of them in elementary, middle and high school, Izaiah’s arm was always around Amari,” Hines said. “Even when they were toddlers and becoming little kids, he was always holding his hand.”

Regarded by most as mature beyond his years, Izaiah was a “mini parent” to his siblings and the many young children in her close-knit family, Hines said.

Every day after school, Izaiah made the trip to meet up with Amari, who attended a different school, so he could ride the bus home with his younger brother. He did the same for other children, making sure those younger than him or those who were afraid to ride alone would get home safely, Hines said.

“At first, I told him, ‘You’re not allowed to do this. I get they’re your friends, but I’m afraid of you riding home with all of these kids because who is gonna ride you home?’” Hines said.

“He would say, ‘Oh, I’m not worried about that. I’m big and strong.’”

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