Ramon Price picked up his telephone and was immediately jolted by screams.
“Daddy just pray,” his daughter Brijjanna Price shrieked through tears on the other end of the line.
She told him his 4-year-old grandson, Na’vaun Jackson, had found a gun at a friend’s home in Oakland and accidentally shot himself in the head.
The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital and admitted to an intensive care unit, where he was fighting for his life. The situation looked dire, and the family was afraid they would lose yet another relative to gunfire – they had already lost four.
It’s been several weeks since the March 27 accident and Na’vaun is now in stable condition, but Brijjanna Price still can’t bring herself to talk about it.
The gun Na’vaun found belonged to family friend Terrence Wilson, who was prohibited from owning a firearm due to prior felony convictions, CNN affiliate KRON4 reported. It was left unlocked and loaded under Wilson’s pillow.
Police have charged Wilson with possession of a firearm by a felon and child abuse. CNN was unable to reach Wilson for comment.
“It was real irresponsible,” Ramon Price said. “And unfortunately it was my grandson who got to pay the ultimate price.”
‘He’ll never be the same’
As soon as Ramon Price learned Na’vaun was shot, he drove directly to the hospital to be by his side.
Relatives, including the boy’s great-aunt Jamilia Land, were terrified he wouldn’t make it.
For the next few days, Na’vaun was showered with love and prayer, as his family surrounded his hospital bed, filling his room with toys and balloons. For a week, he lay bandaged up with no sign of activity.
Land said the boy was placed in a medically induced coma, and the family had to wait and see if he would respond once the medication wore off.
Finally, Na’vaun opened his eyes.
“He’s moving now, he’s opening his eyes, he’s yawning, he’s coughing, he’s moving his hands, he’s moving his legs, what a miraculous turnaround,” Ramon Price said on Facebook on April 3.
Since then, his once-critical condition has stabilized, and he’s been removed from the ICU.
He’s alive, but there’s permanent, irreversible brain damage, Land said.
“We maintain our faith and pray that things will turn out and he will leave (the hospital), but with the extent of his injuries, he’ll never be the same,” she added.
Ramon Price is grateful for the positive change in his grandson’s condition.
A tragic family history
“Before work after work all during the day you are on my mind PaPa loves you keep fighting Na’vaun and as you get better I get better,” Ramon Price wrote on Facebook, including photos of his grandson.
After enduring a series of tragic shootings, Na’vaun’s family wants his shooting to be the last.
Nathan Jackson, Na’vaun’s father, has lost three siblings to gun violence. In 2010, Nario Jackson, 18, was shot and killed by a suspected gang member in West Oakland, The Mercury News reported. Less than a year later, Najon Jackson, 16, was shot and killed outside his grandmother’s home in East Oakland, the San Francisco Gate reported. And last year, Ellesse McFee, 21, was shot and killed in a car in East Oakland, Land said.
Brijjanna Price also lost her brother to gun violence. In 2012, Lamont Price, 17, was shot and killed by someone he knew, Ramon Price said.
In 2017, there were 277 non-fatal shootings and 63 fatal shootings, according to the city of Oakland. That’s down from 2011, when the city experienced 617 non-fatal shootings and 93 fatal shootings.
“Whether it’s a police officer’s gun or a community member’s gun or in this case an accidental shooting, a bullet does the same type of irreparable damage not just to the body, but to our psyches,” Land said.
“It’s an epidemic in our community,” she added. “We have these killings in our communities all the time, in the African-American community and oftentimes it’s not talked about.”
“We can’t seem to escape it.”
‘Not one more’
As a pastor and employee at a funeral home, Ramon Price says he sees young shooting victims every day.
It’s just “what happens when you live in Oakland,” he said. “Families are being shattered.”
He attributes the city’s gun problems to a lack of education and irresponsible behavior.
“There’s more people carrying guns than books,” he said.
And many of them, Price said, aren’t familiar with gun safety regulations.
“We need to have more preventive measures, (people should know) how to properly store guns and keep guns and the importance of having a gun,” he said. “Guns are supposed to be used for protection and if you think you need a loaded gun in your house, then there’s something wrong.”
Land believes the problem has more to do with American gun culture. “Guns are a part of our life, they are American as pie,” she said.
The problem is more pronounced in certain African-American communities, where poverty has given way to gun violence and other crime, she added.
“It’s time we take back our streets and our youth,” she wrote on Facebook, addressing the Oakland community. “I can’t afford to lose not 1 more. I’ve had a total of 5 nephews and 1 niece murdered in the streets of Oakland. My son’s fiancee was murdered, my great nephew shot himself and everyday I’m scared I’m going to get another call.”
Land plans to keep advocating for change until the shootings stop. “What I’ve chosen to do is be proactive because I’m tired of losing relatives.”