He was walking to the store the morning of Christmas Eve and never made it back. Despite trying to always avoid the perils of life on the street, Kameron Westbrook, 20, was gunned down in a violent drive-by shooting early Sunday morning.
His parents, still dealing with indescribable grief, have made it their mission to bring the neighborhood and community leaders together in order to curb gun violence plaguing parts of Cleveland’s east side.
Westbrook is among the 128 criminal homicides in 2017. But he is much more than a statistic. The 20-year-old graduate of John Hay was a loving, caring and family-oriented young man, his parents said.
“Kameron was a good kid. He was a good son. Whatever I asked him to do, he would do,” said his mother Kimberly Jackson. “This (violence) has got to stop. I just don’t see how this type of thing is constantly going on day after day.”
Yellow police tape and crime scene markers have become all too common in the area around East 115th and St. Clair. The heartbreak has been, too.
“We have been thrust onto the front line of an innocent child being murdered in the street,” said Kenneth Westbrook, Kameron’s biological father. “You can’t imagine how it feels for a parent to have to think about burying their child.”
In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, Kameron was walking to a nearby store in the 600-block of East 115th when a quick succession of gunfire tore through the neighborhood.
According to police, an unknown vehicle drove by and fired in Kameron's direction. A friend of Kameron’s ducked behind a parked car before a hail of bullets hit it. The gunfire also struck a second car and a nearby home. As many as two dozen shots were fired.
Kameron’s parents, along with others in the neighborhood, said he was an unintended target of the drive-by shooting. Kameron avoided street life, instead opting to spend time with his family, Jackson said.
“It’s people out here that don’t care that you aren’t doing anything. They don’t care that you’re just going to the store. It’s just not right. It’s just not right,” Jackson said. “My son was full of life, and they robbed him of that. They robbed him of his future. That’s not fair. You’re a coward. You shot out of a moving car at an innocent person. How does that get you your stripes? That makes no sense to me.”
It took the medical examiner’s office a couple of days to positively identify Westbrook; he didn’t have his ID on him. Jackson had a fun-filled day with family planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Instead, she and her family have to plan a funeral.
“Parents aren’t stepping up and being parents. These kids got to turn to the streets and let the streets raise them. That’s not fair,” Jackson said. “That’s not fair to me. That’s not fair to my son. That’s not fair to my other children. That’s not fair.”
Jackson is trying to channel her grief into something positive. She doesn’t want her son’s death to be in vain. Jackson is cobbling together neighborhood and community leaders to come together to denounce the seemingly constant violence impacting the neighborhood.
The neighborhood is tired to living in fear, she said.
“Something good has to come out of this. There has to be a change,” Jackson said. “We can’t be afraid. I feel like there’s more decent people in the community than these cowards running around here. You can’t be afraid.”
Jackson's son had dreams of becoming an architect. She hopes his death can help build a better future for others in the neighborhood.
“They robbed my son of that dream. They robbed me of that dream,” Jackson said. “I always had a sense of, ‘something has to be done.’ I guess this is just my time to step up.”