MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It's been more than a year since gun violence in north Minneapolis touched the lives of three families. Three children were shot in just a few weeks last year, and only one of them survived. But on Saturday, the community came together to honor them by planting three trees in their names.
At the corner of 36th Avenue North and North Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis, a spot once filled with so much pain, the community is bringing in new life. It was at this intersection where 6-year-old Aniya Allen was hit and killed by a stray bullet in May 2021 while she was eating McDonald’s in the back seat of her family car.
"People can come by here and see that something happened here that hurt our families and hurt a community," said KG Wilson, a peace activist and Aniya's grandfather.
Three children were shot over the course of three weeks last year, Aniya and two more children: Ladavionne Garrett Jr. and 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith. Police have said all three children were the unintended targets of gun violence between rival gangs.
Now 11 years old, Ladavionne was the only one of the three who survived his injuries, but he remains unable to walk.
"A lot of people's lives have went on and our lives are still at a standstill. We still don't have any justice. We still don’t know what or who or why," said Sharrie Jennings, Ladavionne's grandma.
The idea for the project came from local sculptor James Brenner, who didn't know any of the families personally but wanted to make sure the three children are not forgotten. Brenner also gifted the families individualized shovels made with parts from melted-down guns.
"We use the shovels today to plant the trees, the remembrance trees that will grow on kind of symbolizing to me this process of transformation: changing one thing to another. Hopefully, we can … have a phoenix rising or something positive coming out of the negative," Brenner said.
"When I was putting the shovel in the dirt, all I could think about is just thanking God that Ladavionne is still here," Jennings said.
No one has been charged in Ladavionne's shooting or Aniya's death, so to their families, these branches mean something different.
"We don't have justice, but in the midst of waiting for justice, somebody touched our hearts today and gave us something that we can come and visit. We can come and water (the trees). We will continue to do that," Wilson said.
The three trees will remain a reminder to anyone driving by the intersection to come forward if they have information, so the young children can get the justice their families have long been waiting for.