Community Health

On July 21, Louisville mother Candy Linear was sitting on her porch – something she said she rarely does – when she heard gunshots. She didn’t know at the time that her 16-year-old daughter, Nylah, who was at a relative’s house nearby, had been caught in a drive-by shooting. 

Linear rushed to the scene and was able to be with her daughter as she lay injured, with two of her siblings watching. Nylah was rushed to the University of Louisville Health where she later died. 

Linear was one of the speakers Wednesday at an event hosted by UofL Health to honor the nearly 100 kids struck by gunfire across the city this year alone. Of the 97 victims, 24 died – the highest annual toll on record. 

“I never realized how much gun violence will affect me and my family,” Linear said. “I never even thought it could happen to me and my family. But gun violence is real and it literally has destroyed my family.”

Aprile Rickert

Candy Linear lost her daughter to gun violence in 2021.

In attendance at the memorial event were several children who are members of U of L’s Future Healers, a program to help empower youth impacted by gun violence, whether they have been injured, lost a loved one or friend, or travel to and from school in fear. 

One by one, the kids placed stuffed animals and figurines on a table to honor those who were impacted. They included 11-year-old Alexis Lewis, who was hit by stray fire while playing in her house this year. 

“Physical therapy every week, physical therapy every night,” her mother, Jessica Goins said. “It’s something she has to live with and all of us do as well. It’s just something the community has to come together with and just stop the gun violence.”

Louisville anti-gun violence activist Christopher 2X helps lead the Future Healers. He said in all the years addressing the issue in Louisville, “We’ve never done something like this, what University of Louisville is doing today…concentrating specifically on juveniles in Louisville 17 years and younger that have been impacted by gunfire.”

“There’s never been a year like 2021 as it relates to kids.”

Dr. Keith Miller is a trauma surgeon at University of Louisville Health. He said the team has treated more children for gunshots than in any previous year.  

So far, there have been seven more youth killed by gunfire this year than in 2020. 

“I can’t say this enough, gun violence is a public health issue in Louisville. It’s a public health crisis,” he said. 

He said this has been an issue locally for a long time, but he’s seen “massive increases” in the last two years.

“We’ve got children in our neighborhoods who go to sleep to the sound of gunfire, who wake up in the morning and think about how they’re going to get to school safely,” Miller said.

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.