Miami gun buyback held in honor of girl killed by stray bullet in 1997

MIAMI (WSVN) - A South Florida community honored a young life lost to gun violence with a gun buyback event, Saturday.

The event, held at Athalie Range Park in Miami, was part of the 18th annual No More Stray Bullets news conference held in honor of Rickia Isaac.

Rickia was only 5 years old when a stray bullet hit and killed her while she was walking home from a parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1997.

Rickia’s uncle, the Rev. Jerome Starling, said her loss is ever present. “The pain is always still there,” he said. “The pain hurts, and it hurts when we hear about other kids’ lives are lost.”

For the past 18 years, Starling has been on a mission to make his community a better place through the Rickia Isaac Foundation. “Let’s save a life! Just don’t shoot!” he said as the crowd repeated after him.

The organization, with the help of local law enforcement, hosted Saturday’s gun buyback. People were able to drop off their firearms, no questions asked, in exchange for $50 gift cards per weapon.

Gun violence is something that has affected Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon personally. “When I was a child, we couldn’t celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July,” he said. “We had to stay inside of our homes and sleep on the floor because bullets could somehow fly within our windows,” he said.

That’s why these community leaders are asking South Floridians to put the guns down this holiday weekend and not fire to celebrate.

They just want everyone to have a fun time, go to a park or fireworks show to enjoy the occasion. “That’s how you should spend your holiday, so at the end of the day, you can smile instead of being sad because someone in your family either was arrested or killed by a stray bullet,” said Hardemon.

Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes has a message for those who choose otherwise. “We do have gunfire locator software, and we will be responding to areas where guns are fired, and if we can make an arrest, we will,” he said.

“I want to see people live and enjoy life, be with their families,” said Starling. “That’s the most important thing.”

Miami Police said they collected three rifles and 10 handguns during the event.

Charles Hadley Park in Miami is one of several locations across South Florida where you can enjoy Fourth of July celebrations featuring fireworks displays.

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