Elkhart Community Inspired by 11-year-old Shooting Victim

By: Kari Huston
By: Kari Huston

Aaliyah Joiner's family is mourning the loss of a bright and beautiful young girl and fearing the consequences her cousin may face for allegedly shooting her.

Family members feel this was an accident and they're finding comfort at their parish, the Willowdale Church of Christ in Elkhart.

“This is a family that loves each other,” says Pastor Bill Myers. “They're going to love this cousin. They're going to support this cousin. They ‘re not going to say,’ who had the gun, who gave him the gun?’ They will instead say ‘Let’s not incarcerate these kids, but to help them.”

The Willowdale Church of Christ has mourned the loss of several young members in recent years, three in Aaliyah's family alone. Aaliyah’s teenage cousin died of a rare disease, another cousin died of asphyxiation and most recently Aaliyah’s was shot in the head and died a day later from her injuries.

“Anytime you find a kid like Aaliyah, who would do anything that you wanted her to do, you ask yourself why this happened,” says her basketball coach, Kenneth Hunt. “You never question God, but you wonder what was behind this death.”

Aaliyah Joiner was a promising basketball player and an excellent student. She spent much of her time at the Tolson community center. “We’re selling T-shirts at Tolson for her family members and friends, anyone who knew her,” Coach Hunt explains. “They’re to help her mother with expenses and they’re keepsake for people who cared about Aaliyah.”

This week the children at Tolson Center told counselors that Aaliyah has inspired them to live better and love more, and in those positive ways perhaps she'll always live on here in Elkhart.

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