Johnny Lubin Jr., a 15-year-old Miami Northwestern student, was walking home Wednesday afternoon in Liberty City when a car drove up. Someone inside fired shots. Lubin, an outgoing kid and former prom king, was hit twice, once in the head and once in the abdomen. Hours later, he was dead.
Lubin's murder is only the latest in a grim pattern at the high school. In 2015, four Northwestern students have now been killed by gun violence, including three this school year. Community leaders are rallying in Liberty City this morning to mourn Lubin's death and protest the rising violence.
"It's just become a big game [among neighborhood kids]," community activist Tangela Sears says of the shootings. "It's just the thing to do because nobody is being held responsible."
Lubin in the latest casualty at one of the state's oldest and proudest high schools. "The heartbreak continues in Miami with another teenage life lost to cowardly, murderous bullets," Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wrote earlier this week on Twitter. "Enough of the senseless code of silence."
The first death came in May, when Joewaun Coles was killed when masked men raked gunfire over a group playing craps in front of his apartment building. Maurice Harris Jr., an 11th-grader who had just transferred to the school, was killed Labor Day, his body ripped with bullets while he was walking in Liberty City; four days later, Randall Robinson III, a tenth-grader with dreams of becoming an architect, was shot near his home in Little Haiti in September; on October 12, Carl Taylor, a freshman, was hit by overnight gunfire and wounded.
Though sympathy and grief have proliferated, explanations behind the violence have not. Maurice Harris was reportedly targeted because of a rivalry from his time in juvenile detention; motives behind other shootings are less clear.
Sears, who is still grieving from the loss of her own adult son who was shot and killed in Tallahassee earlier this year, believes the spate has less to do with Northwestern itself and more to do with a broader normalization of violence in the neighborhoods where Northwestern students happen to live.
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She says criminal convictions are difficult and sentencing is often lenient, in large part because prosecutors struggle to find cooperative witnesses. That challenge was visible again this week at the trial of the teen accused of wounding 15 in a mass shooting at the Spot nightclub, located just blocks from Northwestern High. In that case, 18-year-old Will Campbell was charged with 15 counts of attempted murder but ultimately pleaded guilty to just one count; his plea deal avoided prison time in part because prosecutors' case was weakened by a lack of witness cooperation.
"So many of these cases are made more difficult by problems obtaining information from victims and witnesses,” Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, told New Times after the trial.
But at the moment, at least, hundreds of Northwestern students and parents surely have other thoughts on their minds and in their hearts. Yesterday, after Lubin's surprising death, there were moments of silence at the school in the morning and in the afternoon, students told the Miami Herald, and another family was left devastated — and wondering.
"Still in shock that I lost a family member over some petty shit," Michael Shorter wrote on Facebook. "[To] take his life just like that is beyond me."