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'She hasn't even begun her life yet': 9-year-old's death marks 18th shooting death of a juvenile this year

In 2020, 15 young people were killed, according to Christopher 2X. The advocate says non-fatal shootings are also rising, leading to community-wide trauma.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — LMPD is investigating a double shooting in Valley Station Sunday that killed a 52-year old man and nine-year-old girl.

The Jefferson County coroner's office identified the victims as Vernon and Kaylee Lee Monday afternoon. The young girl’s death marks the 18th shooting death of someone under 17 since the start of the year.

Sunday night, Andrew Johnson came back to his home to find crime scene tape and dozens of police officers.

"Everybody was over screaming and crying," Johnson said.

Johnson said the family of Kaylee Lee was sitting in his yard. Police said she and 52-year old Vernon Lee were shot and killed around 5:30 p.m. on Lyons Avenue.

Johnson said they were newer to the neighborhood, but Kaylee's face had become familiar.

"Nine-year-old, she hasn't even begun her life yet," Johnson said. "It's just hard."

RELATED: 9-year-old killed in double shooting in southwest Jefferson County

Advocates said the shooting is the latest in a dramatic rise in deaths among people under 17.

"This had got to be the biggest uptick I've seen in recent times," community activist Christopher 2X said.

2X said Lee's death is the 18th shooting death of a juvenile this year. In all of 2020, there were just 15.

Gunshot injuries among kids are also rising at an alarming rate. There have been 70 in the first seven months of 2021, compared to 80 for the entirety of 2020.

"There's kids who never get hit by gunfire who are suffering tremendously from all the gunfire going on,” 2X said.

2X said the pain goes beyond bullets. As kids go back to school, they are exposed to dangerous secondary trauma he says can lead to even more gun violence.

"There's no way you can't think for some reason that doesn't spill over into schools, because of the amount of the young that are being impacted by these shootings," 2X said.

RELATED: Louisville shooting victim steps into activism after losing brother, friend in less than 2 years

2X encouraged parents and teachers to have conversations about guns and trauma with children while they're young, saying they'll absorb positive lessons. He called the idea that kids are too young to discuss trauma "dinosaur thinking."

"It's extinct," 2X said. "We've got to go at this right now."

Johnson's neighborhood is still reeling from the death. In his ten years on Lyons Avenue, Johnson said they've never seen tragedy. This one is forcing him to rethink what life looks like for his own children.

"I do worry about my 13-year-old if I can't get ahold of him for a couple hours," Johnson said. "I do worry."

Anyone with information on the double shooting is asked to call LMPD's anonymous tipline at (502) 574-LMPD.

RELATED: 'She was a light': Teammates, Louisville community remember basketball star 16-year-old Tiffanie Floyd

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