Andrew Dys

Mom of Chester drive-by shooting victim to suspect: ‘You can get a gun, but you can’t get a high school diploma?’

Jarius Sanders, 17, is charged with attempted murder in connection with a drive-by shooting in Chester last month.
Jarius Sanders, 17, is charged with attempted murder in connection with a drive-by shooting in Chester last month. adys@heraldonline.com

Sharon Dye has had enough.

“You can get a gun, but you can’t get a high school diploma?” she asked Thursday of the alleged teen gang member accused of strafing her son’s car with bullets last month.

Jarius Sanders, 17, is charged with attempted murder in connection with the shooting. He faces up to 30 years in prison, if convicted.

So many cases of gun violence were heard in a single Chester County courtroom on Thursday, it was almost impossible to keep them straight. Prosecutors seemed to repeat themselves after so many shootings involving young men, gangs and – as always – guns.

Defense lawyers presented rationalizations. Families of the accused spoke. They brought preachers with them. All swore that the person accused of trying to shoot others is not as bad as the cops and prosecutors made them out to be.

Dye stood out. She stood tall. She stood alone, saying what America needs to hear during another week of awful gun crimes committed by those who perceive they have been wronged and decide to take out their frustrations with bullets.

That brutal criminal in Virginia who shot the TV reporter and camera operator on live television blamed everybody else for his failures in life. He used a gun to try to become a folk hero and media sensation – even if it took the horrifying act of murder.

The defiant act of shooting for retribution or notoriety. Whites blaming blacks, blacks blaming whites, blacks blaming each other – all of it preposterous and sick. It happened in Roanoke on Wednesday, and it happens right here all too often.

A weakling with a gun becomes a murderer or a maimer.

A weakling without a gun is just a whiner.

Gangs brag about gun violence. They threaten to kill cops. They shoot each other.

Some are wounded, some die. Some escape without being shot, only to live in fear forever.

That courtroom in Chester on Thursday – filled earlier in the day with so many words and noise – had no other sound other than the eloquence and courage of Sharon Dye.

The 35-year-old mother of two, a single mom doing her best, was rightfully proud when she spoke to Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons about her son, a victim with no criminal record. She spoke of how her son graduated from the same Chester High School that Sanders might never go back to because he is in jail without bond, facing the next 30 years in prison.

Dye was right in saying that people who work and love and try to make a life worth living in Chester are constantly under fire – literally and in spirit – by the guns of criminals.

The judge heard so many shooting cases on Thursday. The defendant in one case is a member of a family Gibbons knows and even coached. In that case, the judge read aloud letters written by terrified victims as guns were held to their heads. Another involved an S.C. State student and alleged gang member accused of shooting his uncle while at his grandmother’s house.

Gibbons did not interrupt Sharon Dye. What she had to say was too important even for a judge to stop.

Dye spoke of people with guns “thinking they can take a life” without a thought about anyone else. She spoke of how Sanders “had plenty of time to change his life” after repeated juvenile arrests and convictions for crimes ranging from possession of guns to burglary and more.

Dye spoke of how her son now has no car to get himself back and forth to work. It was shot to pieces. She spoke of how her son got fired from the grocery store where he worked because its managers feared the violence would make its way to the store where people shop.

“They tried to kill my son,” Dye said, “and we all pay for it.”

The young man accused of providing the car used in the drive-by shooting is another alleged gang member. Derrick Dixon, 19, appeared in court earlier in the week on a charge of accessory before the fact of attempted murder.

Dixon also is charged with accessory after the fact to murder in the shooting death of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams in November – one of five alleged gang members facing charges up to murder. While free on bond for the Williams shooting, Dixon was shot in the leg in still another incident.

Dye spoke of asking her mother to come and live with her because she is “afraid to go to sleep.” She is “afraid they are coming back.”

This young mother, afraid of thugs with guns targeting her and her family.

Dye said in court, for all to hear and for the court record to reflect forever, that she has had enough of gangs and guns and people of any color who use guns to try to make up for perceived slights.

It took Judge Gibbons barely two seconds to deny bond for Jarius Sanders.

Sharon Dye left the courtroom, but her words hung in the air.

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