Kanari Gentry Bowers, 12, who was shot in the head on Saturday, has died today, Feb. 15, 2017. (Family photo)
Kanari Gentry Bowers’ family was determined not to let her go.
For days they read to her as she lay unconscious in the hospital bed, her skin pierced by 11 IVs. Notes from friends, a homemade Valentine’s Day card from a boy Kanari liked, a school banner her principal brought over, dotted with the names of her sixth-grade classmates.
Their resolve only grew stronger after another young girl shot over the weekend, 11-year-old Takiya Holmes, died on Tuesday.
But in the words of a family friend, "God got the last word" on Wednesday afternoon and Kanari died while still hooked up to life support at Stroger Hospital.
Kanari was surrounded by her mother, her father and her uncle, according to Dawn Valenti, a family friend and crisis counselor who was just outside the door.
“Her brain function was gone, there was nothing else they could do for her, nothing at all,” Valenti said. “It’s not a decision they wanted to make, It was out of their hands. She was gone."
Her family released a statement through the hospital saying "we are appreciative of all of the thoughts and prayers we have received in the past several days.
"Please keep your children close and do whatever it takes to protect them from the senseless gun violence in our city.”
Recent shootings illustrate how quickly innocent children can become victims in some of the city’s most gang-infested neighborhoods.
Kanari was the third child to be fatally shot in Chicago in the past week. Her death came as charges were filed in Takiya’s death and as police stepped up their investigation into the slaying of 2-year-old Lavontay White Jr. earlier this week.
Kanari had been on life support since a bullet tore into her body on the South Side Saturday night, striking her uppermost vertebrae, close to the base of her head, and causing brain damage, according to Valenti.
Thirty minutes earlier, and 4 miles away, Takiya, was also struck by a stray bullet in the head. She also remained on life support for days until doctors determined there was no brain activity. She died early Valentine’s Day.
When Valenti heard the news, she knew she had to be the one to break it to Kanari’s legal guardian, her paternal grandmother, Patricia Donald-Bowers.
“The shock value of it, I didn’t want her to see it on TV, I wanted to tell her personally so she could kind of absorb it,” Valenti said.
She said the two families have reached out to one another, with some of Kanari’s relatives attending a vigil for Takiya on Tuesday and offering condolences to Takiya’s mother, Valenti said.
“It’s amazing how two families can be bonded by an act of violence … coming together because their children suffered,” Valenti said.
Learning of Takiya’s fate had only steeled her resolve not to take Kanari off life support.
The family is extremely close, she said, and Kanari’s cousins were a strong support system. Kanari’s uncle Djuan Donald and her cousins Rochetta Tyler and Patricia Donald, 20, were at the hospital praying but also trying to keep spirits light by sharing stories.
"That’s about all you could do right now,is talk about those happy times and focus on those things that make your spirits feel good,” Valenti said.
After a Tuesday visit from Henderson Elementary School Principal Marvis Jackson-Ivy, Patricia Donald took a pile of letters and cards Jackson-Ivy dropped off and read them during a stream on Facebook Live.
“Y’all done put so much thought and love into the cards, when Kanari see it she gonna love it,” Donald said into the camera.
She got in some good teasing, too. She complimented one student’s handwriting, seemed impressed one student wrote to Kanari in Spanish, and saved her best taunts for a student who had a bit of trouble with spelling (it’s “choir,” not “quire,” she said.)
The family has been torn before by gun violence. Rochetta Tyler lost a daughter, Michelle Pearson, in the summer of 2014 at the age of 20. Like Kanari, Pearson was shot in the head and was on placed of life support.
‘“My baby’s fighting for her life,’’ Rochetta Tyler said at the time. “They say she’s not going to get any better. The doctors told me that she’s a fighter. . .that she’s really fighting.’’
Pearson died seven months later. She was the mother of a 4-year-old son.