Sasha Lowe can’t eat.
She hasn’t slept much or worked since Sunday, when a fragment of bullet struck her youngest son, 7-year-old Shamar, in the head. While she’s helping him through his trauma, though, she’s grateful she isn’t planning his funeral.
A 31-year-old single mother, Lowe made the rounds that night picking up her three sons. She had finished working her two jobs, which take up about 70 hours of her week in addition to homeschooling her children.
She dropped her two older sons, ages 12 and 13, off at home. She got Shamar, who sat in the backseat next to his toy truck.
It was just before 10 p.m. As Lowe turned onto East 54th Street from Brooklyn Avenue, just a block from their home on Garfield Avenue in Kansas City, two men started shooting at another person.
“Get down!” Lowe told her son.
Lowe slammed her foot on the truck’s brake, trying to play out the best scenario in her head. She didn’t want to drive forward and have the men think she was trying to hit them. She also didn’t want to move any closer to her home, where her other sons were.
The thought was agonizing: “Who to save first?”
One of the gunmen heard Lowe tell Shamar to duck. The shooter turned toward her truck and fired at least two shots, sending one bullet into the panel of the door, and another crashing through one window and out another.
“Mom,” she heard Shamar say from the backseat. “There’s blood. Mom, look!”
Shamar is one of more than 360 people who have been shot and survived this year in Kansas City.
Lowe said she is thankful her son is alive. She has heard of other children struck by gunfire in the city this year, including Brian Bartlett, who was killed as he slept when more than 30 bullets ripped through his mother’s house in the 8300 block of Tracy Avenue.
No one has been charged in Brian’s killing, the 90th of 104 homicides so far this year. That figure is on pace to surpass the 143 people slain in 2018, according to data kept by The Star.
Brian was a fourth-grader. He would have turned 9 on Tuesday.
‘Don’t leave me’
After Shamar was struck by the fragment Sunday, Lowe jumped out of her truck and yanked him out of his seat belt.
Under the street lights, she saw blood rushing out of his wound. She applied pressure and knew she needed to keep him responsive.
She told him to yell out the alphabet.
The unknown men had left the area. Lowe’s older son came running outside, upset and confused.
“Somebody help me,” Lowe shouted. “Help me, please!”
Lowe called 911 but couldn’t immediately get through, she said. She wondered how long it could take for an ambulance to arrive. She decided to drive Shamar to Research Medical Center, more than a mile south of her home. She blew red lights, hitting 80 mph.
At the emergency room, Lowe almost fell as she ran her son to doctors. She was disoriented and hyperventilating. She tried to breathe.
Doctors removed the bullet fragment that had penetrated the skin on Shamar’s head. It stopped short of his skull, hospital staff told Lowe. Shamar underwent a computed tomography scan, and hours later, she was able to see him.
“Mama,” the boy said. “They were shooting fireworks, Mama.”
When Lowe and her son got home from the hospital, Shamar just wanted popcorn and an Icee. Lowe couldn’t say no, given the circumstances.
Shamar is an energetic boy, but he has to wear a bandage around his head for the next week to keep the wound clean, his mother said. It keeps falling off when he goes to bed.
“Make sure you don’t get nothing on your head, OK?” she told him quietly Tuesday.
He nodded slightly. He wore a shirt showing Marvel’s Flash logo.
Physically, Shamar will be OK, Lowe said. But she believes her son is suffering from PTSD.
He hasn’t left her side since the shooting, she said, and he flinches when he sees her truck. It reminds her of when he was a toddler, needing her for everything.
“Don’t leave me,” he’ll say. “Stay with me.”
Shamar doesn’t want be around people he trusted before the shooting, even other relatives. And he doesn’t want to go outside.
It’s unlike Shamar, who learned to ride his Spider man-themed bicycle earlier this summer, near where investigators recovered more than 40 shell casings, Lowe said. The bike sat sideways in their front yard.
He had a nightmare about the shooting, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. He recently told his mother: It’s a shame people can walk up to you and shoot you.
The boy enjoys math, reading and games that make him think, like “a little scientist,” Lowe said. Shamar, who is currently about 3-feet tall, loves to play basketball, but Lowe’s family is short, so they’re praying for the best, she joked.
Lowe and her children will all need counseling, she said. She can recall the sound of the bullets hitting her truck and piercing its windows, which she expects to shatter soon. She remembers the smell of the gunfire.
Family and friends have tried to get Lowe to eat, but she hasn’t been hungry since the shooting. Her brain won’t let her sleep, though she knows her body is tired. Whoever shot up Lowe’s truck doesn’t realize the damage he caused, she said.
“There is nothing OK about shooting people’s babies,” Lowe said. “This could be anybody’s son.”
No one has been charged in the shooting. Capt. Tim Hernandez, a police spokesman, said detectives were still investigating.
Lowe hasn’t been billed yet for her son’s emergency room visit, but she’s worried her insurance won’t cover it all. She hasn’t worked since the shooting. Something in her truck broke as she rushed to the hospital.
She’d like to move her sons out of the area, but for now, it’s all she can afford. She isn’t the type to ask for help, she said, but when a television reporter suggested she set up a GoFundMe account, she did.
“I can’t fix this right now,” she said, tears running down her face. “I can’t fix it like I need to or I want to. All because I’m poor and I’m a single mom. And I can’t fix it.”
Still, Lowe said she’s blessed to see another day. The shooting could have ended differently, she said. Her older sons could have watched her and Shamar die. And had she not dropped them off earlier that night, they would have been in the truck.
As she sat on her front porch Tuesday, Lowe said she hopes her sons grow up to make a difference in their communities. She heard a noise from inside the house and yelled out to them: “Y’all, stop fighting.”
She shook her head and smiled.
“By the grace of God, we are still alive today,” she said.