“That’s got to be the worst call, when we find out a child has been shot and to see her standing here today is a miracle,” said Lieutenant John Green, commander of St. Louis Police Department homicide division.
Not only was Irving standing in front of family, friends and supporters like Lt. Green Sunday afternoon at Mt. Chapel M.B. Church, she was walking, smiling and hugging.
In June, doctors gave Irving little chance to survive. Some family members told news media she died and doctors were planning to take her off life support. But the child began to improve. Four months later, the young girl is back at school, in the second grade.
“It’s not easy, but we’ve made it through by the grace of God so I’m thankful,” said LaWanda Griffin, the child’s grandmother. Griffin is raising Irving after her parents' death.
Derrick Irving, 27, and Jessica Garth, 24, the child’s parents were in killed in the shooting alongside her uncle Julian Hayes, 38.
“Not only am I grieving my child, her parents, my nephew, their cousin, and also still grieving the fact that this happened to my grandchild,” said Griffin.
But Griffin has not faced this long road alone, her church including Pastor R. M. Fraction, law enforcement like Lt. Green and the community have all stepped up to help the family.
Members of Irving's school community raised more than $5,000 to help with expenses. Pastor Fraction presented Griffin the check on Sunday. Lt. Green also had a gift; a framed photograph of the homicide commander with a note that read, “Deniya, you are a strong little girl. We are behind you forever! Love John.”
Green chocked up talking to the little girl, and thinking back to that 911 call.
“I see a lot of violence and to see someone survive from it, a small child, is amazing. You’re a tough girl. You’re probably tougher than me.”
Green can’t provide the family with the answer as to why they were gunned down, but he is thankful the community helped track down the accused shooter.
Jerome Buress, 28, faces charges of murder and armed criminal action. He is being held without bond. Initially, investigators were looking for additional suspects, but Green says that is no longer the case.
While this family awaits a trial, they have plenty to keep themselves distracted. Irving, while improving dramatically, still has a long road ahead with physical therapy and speech therapy every day after school. But she says she finds plenty of time to play with her sisters.
She also is dreaming of her future.
"[I want to be] a doctor,” said the 7-year-old who now, thanks to doctors, and a family that never gave up, has the ability to dream towards that future.
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