Cole Village Apartments, where a 5-year-old boy was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting Saturday evening, on Sundayin Winston-Salem.

It’s a crime that shocks the conscience — and well it should. It’s baffling and frustrating that such things take place in a prosperous nation — and in a peaceful city like Winston-Salem.

A 5-year-old boy who was sitting at home with his parents and 3-year-old sister was killed in a drive-by shooting on Saturday afternoon.

The shot was fired from a moving vehicle outside of Cole Village Apartments in southeastern Winston-Salem, where the child’s family lives. The fatal bullet traveled from the moving car into the apartment.

The boy was taken to a local hospital, but died during surgery.

Winston-Salem Police responded quickly, arresting three teenagers on Sunday, ages 17, 15 and 14. The 17-year-old, Oscar Mendez-Rodriguez, has been charged with murder and is being held in the Forsyth County Detention Center with no bond allowed.

The shooting is being described as “random,” with a spray of bullets apparently aimed at the apartment building that houses the family, but for no known reason at this point. The perpetrators likely had no idea of the consequences of their actions at the time.

But that doesn’t forgive them. Even if they should be found guilty and punished, that won’t bring back the life that was lost. That won’t repair the shattered remnants, not only of the lives of the 5-year-old’s family members, but those of the families of the perpetrators of this horrific act.

Nor will it alleviate the fear and anger felt in the southeastern neighborhood, where the sound of gunfire is commonplace.

This is the 13th homicide in Winston-Salem this year, one more than the 12 reported at this time last year. But this is not a problem that is unique to Winston-Salem. As columnist Scott Sexton wrote in Sunday’s Journal, it happens somewhere every damn day. Death by gunshot is the second-leading cause of death for children in the United States, surpassed only by motor-vehicle crashes.

The second-leading cause of death.

That we allow our children to be put at risk like this is insane.

We can point fingers at street gangs — and that element is possible in this case. Many of us will point as well to our favorite pre-determined hobby horses: lack of religious instruction or poor parenting, or the disconnection of personal relationships in a wired society, or the detrimental effects of poverty and insufficient education or easy access to firearms. The Journal has no special insights into the reasons these things happen.

But somebody does. We urge the city to contact the experts who study these situations and work to find solutions. That may include Cure Violence, a nonprofit organization that treats violence as a disease and claims success using scientific methods to prevent it in communities before it occurs. Greensboro and Guilford County have discussed that approach.

The Winston-Salem Police Foundation helps with its community outreach initiatives. Union Baptist Church on North Trade Street helps by offering drive-by prayers. Not that “thoughts and prayers” will solve the problem, but they can offer solace and comfort.

What we need most is more: more from community activists, more volunteers and city officials, working to end our part of the epidemic of gun violence — before the next child dies.

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