Covid Blamed for Rise in Murders Across U.S.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Family and friends of Aaron Pryor say they may never know exactly why the 16-year-old star football player, a lightning-fast running back, was killed in broad daylight on a Sunday in September in a driveway near his Oakland home. Video of the shooting viewed by family members shows an assailant, who has not been arrested, confronting the baby-faced teenager before firing more than a dozen rounds.

But his football coach, Joe Bates, does not hesitate in assigning blame. With school entirely online and football season canceled, the coronavirus shattered the young man’s life, Mr. Bates said. The mandatory 7 a.m. study halls for the team’s players, the daily three-hour practices, the Friday games that last late into the night — all of that was gone this fall. In a normal year, Mr. Pryor would have been on the field, not on the streets, the coach said.

“It was Covid that really killed this kid,” he said.

Like many American cities, where economies have been ravaged by the pandemic, Oakland has seen a surge in gun violence, including six killings of juveniles since June and a 40 percent increase in homicides over all. To the south, in Los Angeles, the picture is equally bloody, with the city on pace to have more than 300 homicides for the first time since 2009.

Beyond California, major cities from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to New York, and even smaller communities like Lubbock, Texas, and Lexington, Ky., are all confronting the same grim pattern, with some places, like Kansas City, Mo., and Indianapolis, setting records for the number of killings in a single year. Philadelphia, which was gripped by unrest this week after the police shooting of a Black man, is among the cities with the highest increase in homicides — its 404 killings this year are a more than 40 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

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