PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — A playful boomerang taken at the bus stop on a Friday afternoon is the last happy memory Nedra Adamson has of her son.

“Ahmajae was sitting on that table right there, leaned back on the wall, my whole front porch where the door place matt is was full of blood,” Adamson told 10 On Your Side.

Moments after the video was taken last October, she says a group of teens in a car began firing shots.
14-year-old Ahmajae Lee took a bullet to the back.

Lee was one of 34 gunshot victims admitted to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in 2021; they also admitted 50 child victims of assault. The hospital has admitted nine gunshot victims this year from January through May.

“They are really victims of the violence that’s going on in our community,” CHKD Trauma Program Manager, Cathy Peterson told 10 On Your Side.

Beyond the physical wounds, these children and their families often suffer mental and emotional trauma.
That includes Lee’s 11-year-old brother who watched Lee bleed out in front of him.

“It’s a challenge for him, hollerin’ at night…nightmares.. missing his brother,” his mom said.

Known as “Second Victims,” family members and other witnesses to violence are at greater risk for substance abuse, dropping out of high school and incarceration.

It’s a vicious cycle CHKD is working to break through its “Safer Futures” program.

Program Coordinator Kamron Blue said it can be very easy for people to fall through the cracks with people trying to navigate different systems.

Blue guides families through the criminal justice system, advocates for kids returning to school, and connects them to mental health care. He also helps with basic needs like food and shelter as victims often share their struggles to cope.

Victims often tell him they don’t feel safe going back to the house where the shooting took place or they don’t have the funds to make the repairs so every time they return home they see the bullet hole which is a painful trigger.

Peterson explained how frontline workers begin following families from the time they are admitted.

“A lot of times, we don’t even know if they’ve had any traumatic response until sometimes up to 30 to 45 days afterward,” she said.

Adamson says Blue still checks on her family weekly. She urges other victim families to accept the help.

“It’s never going to be ok but we’ll get better,” she said.

CHKD received a grant last June to develop the Safer Futures program. Blue hopes to expand it in the future from only reacting to violent crime to preventing it.

Adamson says that many in the community know who killed her son. So far, police have made no arrests.