Day'von Hann (right). "You could see that smile from hella far."

When the shots rang out, five or six in quick succession — POP POP POP POP POP POP — people assumed they were fireworks. It was shortly after midnight on Monday at 24th and Capp, and the Mission does love its July fireworks. 

It wasn’t fireworks. 

A neighbor glanced out his window. He saw men scurrying off and, prone on the sidewalk, the tiny figure of Day’von “Day Day” Hann in a puddle of blood. The neighbor called an ambulance and ran down the stairs. He held Hann’s hand and told him help was on the way. And, for what it’s worth, that was true. 

Hann was alive, but not responsive. If he heard anything, if he took any comfort in these moments — his last — he didn’t register it. He died right there on the pavement, not so far from his home in the Mission-Bernal area. By the time paramedics arrived, all they could do was apply CPR in a pro forma manner and cover Hann’s body. 

He was 15 years old. 

Fifteen years old is an outrageous age to die. Fifteen years old is an outrageous age to have your life taken away from you — while walking through your own ostensible neighborhood. Mission Local published this story by By Annie Berman and Aleka Kroitzsh, headlined “Shooting at 24th and Capp leaves child dead; police come up empty in vehicular pursuit,” hours after Hann’s death. And readers were, in fact, outraged. 

But not for the reasons you might think. 

[dropcap]“F[/dropcap]ifteen is the age of consent in a lot of places. Using the word child is unprofessional … ” 

“Why does this headline say ‘child’ instead of ‘teen’ or something? No ‘child’ is hanging out at the 24th street BART station after midnight.”

“If the purpose is to convey information to readers, using the term child is simply sensationalistic. Stating that a child was killed connotes an innocent bystander, while that stating a 15 year old was shot in a barrage of gun fire connotes an event that was likely more targeted. Please, you’re not helping the youth of the Mission with this kind of reporting.”

I wrote that headline. Now, this ain’t about me, but let’s take a second here to note that I have been a professional journalist for 25 years and have three kids of my own. So do consider that background when offering me journalistic advice regarding how to cover children and children’s untimely deaths. 

I can’t imagine the pain of burying your own child. Seeing him cold and dead on a slab, wearing the same clothes he wore out of the house that morning. I don’t like to dwell on it. But, God forbid, if this did come to pass, I would not have to deal with the input of anonymous pedants laying down semantic minefields regarding whether or not my child was a child — and stating, overtly or not, that he surely had a hand in his own death simply by virtue of the fact that he died violently. 

That’s because my children are white. If a white kid with a name befitting a 1950s TV character was shot down in the Mission, I don’t think people would be hunting down multiple dictionary definitions of what constitutes a “child” or an “adolescent” or a “minor” — which is, no joke, something Jeffrey Epstein did to redefine his drive to have sex with children into something other than child sex. 

It is not “sensationalistic” nor “unprofessional” to describe a child as a child. Terms like “teen” or “juvenile” reframe the story and add connotations that can easily be molded into the preordained narrative applied to every instance of a minority child being shot to death.  

“If he’s 15, now he’s a ‘juvenile’ and not a ‘child.’ ‘Juvenile’ implies what it implies,” explains James Taylor, a USF political science professor with a focus on religious, racial, and ethnic history. “‘Juvenile justice. Juvenile delinquency.’ Rarely is ‘juvenile’ used positively anywhere.” 

Taylor is a professor. His wife is a law-enforcement officer. Their children, ages 13, 11 and 9, live in the Oakland hills. They’re doing well. But he knows that, should the unthinkable occur, even these kids growing up in this environment will be shoehorned into the tried-and-true narrative of cyclical violence in the black community, in which everybody is guilty by association. 

“How you use terms and how they are applied to victims matters,” Taylor continues. “And this is a child who is a victim. He is only a victim. I am a black father and this could be my own son. And if he were my own son, he would be an innocent child. So I am giving this child the benefit of the doubt.” 

But that’s not what happens when black children die. 

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]

iven that he was at 24th and Mission after midnight, questions about gangs and crime seem entirely appropriate. If he was coming home from the late shift at his summer job at Mitchell’s someone would have mentioned it, no? Can we be honest?

Yes. Let’s be honest. Despite connotations that any “teen” or “juvenile” out in the Mission in the wee hours was up to no good and obviously had it coming, violent crime rates in this and nearly every city  are a fraction of what they were a generation ago. “Helicopter parenting” is a thing now, but it wasn’t then. And, back then, the nation’s violent crime rates were more than double what they are now. You wouldn’t know about it based on how news stories are written and framed, but San Francisco doesn’t even crack the nation’s Top-100 most dangerous cities, as measured by violent crime per capita. 

A lot of Mayberry-type towns do, though. Chicago, which Donald Trump claimed “there are those who say” is worse than Afghanistan, cracks the list at No. 91. Muskogee, Okla. — a place where even squares can have a ball; we still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse; and white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all — is nearly 30 slots higher, at No. 62. 

So, that’s a fact. But Day’von Hann had an apostrophe in his name. And that’s a fact, too. 

“There is no black innocence,” Taylor says. “When you are a victim, it’s almost like a sort of twist on double jeopardy. You become involved in the community’s violence; the act of being shot makes you connected to ‘urban violence.’ The particulars of your innocence are trivial. You were there where the violence was and these communities were long ago dismissed as ‘bad neighborhoods.’” 

The presumption of culpability and guilt attached to young people of color like Hann does not tend to apply to white youths. Studies have shown that law-enforcement officials perceive black children to be both older than and more likely guilty than white contemporaries.

This is pervasive and systemic and transcends mere first impressions. How else to interpret why the black girl caught licking cartons of ice cream in a Texas Wal-Mart was initially threatened with a 20-year incarceration while a New Jersey judge argued that a white boy accused of rape deserved leniency because he hailed from “a good family?”

Crime rates aren’t lower than they’ve ever been, but they’re far, far lower than they were even during the so-called “good times.” And yet people seem to be more scared than they’ve ever been. This month in Arizona, a white man stabbed a 17-year-old black boy in the neck at a Circle-K, killing him. The rationale? The boy was playing rap music, and the man said rap music makes him feel unsafe.

I don’t know about you, but getting stabbed in the neck makes me feel unsafe.    

Taylor sees all of this — the victim-blaming, the denial of innocence and youth, the pervasive fear in the face of quantitatively better crime numbers — as part of a continuum. 

“The way in which our political narratives function tend to give peace of mind to the portion of society that feels like it cannot wrestle with larger issues like urban violence or gun violence or youth violence,” he says. The people parsing the term “child” in a story about a brutal homicide “can sleep better at night living in a society where an innocent black boy is shot down like a dog in the street and the takeaway is ‘he’s older than you’re saying he is.’” 

In photos, Day’von “Day Day” Hann is quick to smile. He’s short and scrawny in a way only kids are and, seen through older eyes, appears to be in that transitional phase. He’s 15, at the cusp of moving from what he was to what he’d be. 

The man who held Day Day’s hand and tried to ease his pain didn’t ask his age. He learned from our story that Hann was just 15. “I sat with this young man as he died, in the dark, on the sidewalk,” wrote the neighbor. “I didn’t know his age, but my impression was, he was just a kid.” 

And he was.  

 

Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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38 Comments

  1. I think a lot of these people were trolls from SF Gate, which had linked the story, not neighborhood, or even SF people.

  2. Of course, this won’t persuade or even give pause to the people it’s directed to. They’re certain in their truths. Those truths are mostly based on confirmation bias, They see only what they want to see and disregard the rest

    BTW, is the word “not” a typo in “The presumption of culpability and guilt attached to young people of color like Hann is not universal.”?

    1. Thank you, sir. That is what I meant to type, but evidently it was confusing. I can alter that.

      JE

  3. Thank you for your story as written. Yes, a 15 year old is a child. Rather than wonder why a teen, or juvenile, or kid was on the street at that time, we should wonder why people are shooting guns at any time. I am so sorry for his family, and the entire community. My deepest condolences.

  4. Thank you. Thank you for allowing space to share his innocence. So often people of color are described as it being their fault if a tragedy happens but that is not always the case. He was a beautiful and wonderful soul that I have blessed to know for the last 4 years. The world will always be a bit dimmer without his bright light shining in our lives.

  5. Thank you so much for this important response to the racist comments. I’d never met Day’von, but what happened to him is tragic, heartbreaking and wrong.

  6. Thanks for this thoughtful follow up. I was horrified by the comments on the original story. I don’t know whether it will change minds, but it certainly needed to be said.

    Day’von was in my daughter’s high school class. I can’t even imagine what his family is going through.

    We should be demanding better from our society, not blaming children for being shot in the streets.

  7. Thank you for this. For the past few days, almost every article or fb share I’ve seen has comments saying he’s not a child and the caption is misleading. That he’s out so late that he must be a gang member. One person on Facebook said “probably a pimp/drug dealer”. His friend replied “Aren’t they all”. I questioned who this “they” he was referring to was and they said public housing blacks. Disgusting racists- saying all of this about a CHILD’s death. I know my daughter’s stepmom isn’t thinking “I’m burying my grown 15 year old”. That’s her child, her baby. He was a good kid and seeing him demonized for being a victim of a crime is vile. I hope that his mom never reads any of those foul comments. My daughter was with me while reading this article, and began crying after seeing all the photos of her brother. Crying and yelling “I want my brother back!” Not my older, grown, teen brother. If my 6 year old can see he’s her big brother “a big kid” but a kid nonetheless than you would think a grown adult would be able to see that DayDay was a child.

    1. Rach I’m so so sorry for your loss and the impact on your family. I had Day’von in my English class (I taught at Bessie a few years ago) and he was ALWAYS the sweetest boy. He had the biggest smile every day, and truly cared for others. He was a leader amongst his peers even in 6th grade because he treated others with respect and grace. It is obvious that he comes from a good family who loves him dearly. I send my deepest condolences to you all, this is the worst thing for a family to face. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to support you.
      Rachel Jones

  8. I am shocked, outraged and heartbroken that you had to write this story but am grateful you did. Thank you for truth telling and compassion.

  9. Thank you so much as a mother of black boys we live in constant fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of biases before looking inward. My daughter was a friend of Day Day, and broke down and weeped, because she will never see her friend again, I consider 15 years old a child, period.
    Thank you for being an ally we need more folks like yourself to speak up and out, our black children are still children. Gun violence has to end!

  10. Thank you, Joe, for writing about the death of a child in the way that you have here. Your focus directs our anger and sorrow where it should be directed—at the loss of life rather than towards judgement or dismissal of Day’von’s life. My deepest sympathies go to his family, friends and teachers.

  11. Oh, I’m pretty sure it was gang-related due to the follow-up drive by in Bernal Dwellings, but that’s from the shooters, not the poor kid. Gang members will shoot people from other parts of town without them being in a gang themselves.

  12. Thank you for this story, at the end of the day he was someone’s CHILD PERIOD, my prayers are with his Mother, Father, Family, Friends and Teachers, May this Child of God Rest in Peace??

  13. This is ridiculous. Words have meaning and help to convey an image in the readers mind. He’s not some 6 year old child running around innocently but a teenager, near adult that is probably engaging in nefarious activities that ended up getting him killed.

    If your job is to inform then you should do it without misleading readers out of some weird sense of white guilt. I’m black and find the excuses white liberals make for the carnage that happened to this young man and other young black men around the country, far more dangerous than some irate comments to your erroneous headline. They prevent the hard look and measures at a culture that continues to kill its own because it is deemed racist to do so. So the killing continues unabated.

    1. Wow…. yes, words have meaning. Even if you want to call a 15 year old a teenager, it does not make them an adult. For you to presume he was engaging in nefarious activities because what, he was out “late”, he lived in the mission? It’s summer time and he is hanging out with his friends… don’t condemn him before you know his story.

      I did not see the original article, but appreciate what this author wrote here.

      I understand that there are many stories of “cultures that continue to kill its own” and it’s horrible what’s happening, but it doesn’t help to make blanket statements like this. This kid/teenager/child sounds like he has been actively involved in youth and gun violence prevention and those community members spoke about his involvement. Maybe will will find out more information (positive or negative) as the investigation continues, but let’s not make assumptions before that.

  14. Muskogee OK is about 20% black and a quick google search shows that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of the killing there. Looks like yet another white knight fail.

  15. One of the comments quoted above was mine. I assure you that it was a critique only of Joe’s confusing headline, not of Day’von, regardless of how Joe is trying to claim these are the same thing.

    What happened to Day’von is tragic. Someone in the neighborhood knows something about the murderers and their motives. Please point your outrage in that direction.

  16. Ah, so you get accused of sensationalist journalism and in response you cite your alleged journalistic credentials of 25 years – and write an article filled to the brim with sensationalism. Very good.

  17. Thank you for a well qritten sensitive article on this youbg child. Condilences to his family

  18. But, moving right along, if the police chased the car so far but lost it on the highway, couldn’t they identify t by license plates or something? shouldn’t that be in focus?

  19. Day Day was my daughter’s friend. And as I combed through the news trying to find answers, it broke my heart that most coverage referred to him as a “man shot” before going on to describe the bulletin hole damage done to businesses in the area. It was YOUR headline and article that I stumbled upon last, that gave this tragedy the humanity and compassion it deserves. So thank you.

  20. I heard those gunshots. It woke me up in the middle of the night. My boyfriend and I looked at each other. He said it’s just fireworks. And I said, “no, it’s not. This is different.” I still can’t wrap my mind around this.

  21. Joe, it’s so important that you wrote this piece and responded to these heartless comments. I doubt you’ll change their minds but regardless, it reminds me of the most vital and crucial gift of a good reporter – a heart.

  22. I just love when White San Francisco comes to the aid of Black San Francisco when its too late. Call on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance banning Hollywood films from filming gun violence scenes in all San Francisco filmed movies. If Hollywood wants to create a set out of The City with those scenes and put it in a San Francisco film, so be it. We should be pointing the fiinger at Hollywood not Congress. And yes, I read this silly article and fully understand the point had little to do with my comment.

  23. I heard those shots as I lay in bed and immediately knew they were NOT fireworks. Growing up in the mission you learn the difference I guess. I said a prayer after I heard them, for everyone involved, Come to find out the next day it was a 15 yr old CHILD who was killed. I’m still praying everyday for him and his family…hard to walk past 24th & capp now.. RIP Day’von ? thank you for this article

  24. Thank you for this. He was a sweet boy. One of the men in the group photo above is a pastor in our church. He came to our youth group a few times, I met him and my kids knew him…. our youth leaders were very close to him and one of ours ( Jav) runs the teen center where he played basketball and he went to bible study. He was a young boy and there is a community of all races who loved him – a church, and a bunch of friends grieving for him. Thank you. – I don’t know the whole story behind what happened in those last moments of his life…. but many are grieving this loss. Thank you for remembering, he was not just some kid on a street… he was a son, a friend and a young man full of purpose. We will keep serving this community to see more lives like his spared. I’m so sorry for your loss DayDay’s family! Our church family is praying for yours!!! – mom of 4

  25. a great article!!!! I’ve lived near there for 25 years, and most of the kids out late at night, are well just kids….I’m old and white…and somehow for some reason I’ve been watching crime states since the 80’s (as so of course hate clinton for his garbage in the 90’s)……anyway…..thanks for actually doing real research too with some compassion…..FEAR and racism are meant to divide us……..

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