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16-Year-Old Garfield Student and Gun Violence Survivor Witnesses Classmate’s Tragic Death

photo of Amarr Murphy-Paine and Garfield High School in Seattle

This past Thursday, June 6, 2024, soon after third period, what began as a routine lunch at Garfield High School quickly escalated into a horrifying ordeal. Chaos broke out and tragically concluded with the shooting of a young student, Amarr Murphy-Paine, in front of the school, shocking his peers and shattering the community.

A 16-year-old student from our RISE community, a survivor of gun violence whose father was tragically murdered before she was born, witnessed this traumatic event. After the shift from third period to lunch, the atmosphere was normal until it abruptly shifted. Only twenty minutes into lunch, Amarr was shot. “We just left third period, and everything was normal as we broke out into workgroups to work on our finals. Seeing Amarr lay there with his lifeless body… It was the most traumatizing thing I have ever experienced. I’m not going back there. I can’t,” she recounted. The sight of his body and the varied reactions from our peers—from shock to unsettling indifference—profoundly deepened the sense of tragedy.

This stark incident underscores the urgent need for a cohesive strategy to combat gun violence, which has repeatedly proven to be not just a public safety issue but a severe public health crisis. According to Northwell Health, students exposed to gun violence may suffer from significant mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, which can affect them well into adulthood (Northwell Health).

Tyla and her sister Tyra, who have been with RISE for three years, recently completed our youth art therapy cohort. Through this program, they have worked to articulate their grief with creativity and community support, crafting narratives and custom shoes that tell the story of their father’s loss and their journey through grief.

Their journey of healing was visibly advanced when Tyla accompanied the RISE team to the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s luncheon on Wednesday, May 8th 2024, a significant event where community leaders, politicians, and activists convened to discuss strategies for reducing gun violence. Reflecting on her participation, Tyla said, “It was different, but I like it.” One month later, she witnessed her classmate being killed. We need to be intentional about an individualized care plan to support her in the complexities of survivorship and grief. It is critical to her mental health and wellbeing.

Lynniah Grayson stands with Tyla at the Alliance for Gun Responsibility's luncheon, 2024
Tyla and RISE Founder Lynniah Grayson at the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s luncheon

However, Seattle’s current Community Violence Intervention (CVI) ecosystem is woefully inadequate, lacking an integrated approach in providing seamless services for victims. This fragmentation results in insufficient support for recovery and prevention, leaving many families to navigate their trauma alone. The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research has highlighted the alarming increase in firearm deaths among U.S. children, a statistic that reinforces the dire need for comprehensive community-based intervention strategies (Feinstein Institutes).

As we stand on the front lines of this crisis, RISE is dedicated to forging a path toward recovery and resilience. Our programs are designed to restore families affected by gun violence through holistic approaches that intersect public health, education, and community support. Yet, we cannot do this alone. The entire community, including local government, organizations, and citizens, must unite to create a robust network of support and prevention.
We call upon everyone to act—volunteer, contribute, advocate. Engage with us at RISE, where we strive not only to address the aftermath of violence but to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the first place. Visit our website at RISE to learn how you can make a difference or email me directly at lynniah@rise4us.org.

Let us not merely react to the next headline; let us work together to ensure there isn’t one. Join us in our mission to transform our community from a place of fear to one of safety and nurturing. Our children deserve a world where education and growth are unmarred by violence.

The work of RISE will continue to be deeply rooted in our love for our community and our love for life. To Amarr and his family, we extend to you, our sincerest condolences and offer any support you may need. We will always uplift the impact he had on the community and a life lost too soon.

With love and urgency,
Lynniah Grayson