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Family of shooting victim struggles to find the joy in their ‘Christmas miracle’

The uncle of a 9-year-old girl critically injured by a stray bullet is calling for Memphians to resist firing their firearms in celebration or for nefarious reasons on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Bruce Tucker posted his ceasefire call to action on Facebook, saying, “We need to bring attention to this issue and try to prevent further devastation to families across the city … Let’s do a ceasefire…one day, no shooting at all.”

Events leading to Tucker’s plea began when Memphis police responded to a call at 9:19 p.m. on Dec. 18 from a Whitehaven home regarding a child who had “fallen out of a chair.”

It was not until an ambulance rushed Journee McClelland, 9, to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital that it was discovered she had been shot. 

Tests were run immediately to determine the scope of her injuries. X-rays revealed a bullet fragment lodged in the victim’s head. 

Journee’s mother, Johnisha Tucker, was out with friends when the child was injured. Journee was visiting at a home, not too far from her own house. Tucker received a frantic call that Journee had fallen and was badly hurt. 

Tucker rushed to the child’s side, arriving just in time to see her daughter loaded into an ambulance.

She trailed the speeding vehicle to LeBonheur. Tucker learned, along with doctors, that a bullet fragment caused her daughter to fall off the chair.

Journee McClelland (Courtesy photo)

“I am still numb to the fact that my baby was shot by a stray bullet,” said Tucker. “I’m just trying to process that she was hurt that way. Of course, I am grateful she is alive, but it has been difficult to find joy about the situation. It’s a miracle that she is still here – a Christmas miracle, some might say. But I am still numb. I cannot find the joy right now.”

Journee’s grandparents also are having a tough time dealing with their granddaughter’s injury.

Bruce Tucker said, “To bring attention to this tragic issue …We propose a ceasefire. We understand that many use gunfire to celebrate, it is more important to put our children first, and find other, safer ways to ring in the new year.”

Although Journee, thankfully, is not yet another child fatality in gun violence on the streets of Memphis, 30 children have died violently, according to Memphis police. Of those 30, 23 children were murdered, with the remaining seven ruled “negligent homicides.”

Johnisha Tucker has been at her daughter’s side around the clock. Emergency surgery was performed on Journee to stop the bleeding. But Journee’s doctor told the family that removing the bullet fragment will do more damage than just leaving it there. 

According to the child’s mother, the surgeon feels certain the fragment will not move or shift.

“Journee regained consciousness, and she is alert, but she cannot walk or talk,” said Tucker. “I’m trying to get her to eat. She has an appetite, but Journee is unable to eat right now. It’s going to be a long road of intense therapy for my daughter. I am so grateful that she is recovering, but it is hard to be joyful about Journee surviving a bullet to her head.”

Tucker said when she first moved to Whitehaven it was quiet and safe. That was six years ago.

“Whitehaven used to be very safe,” said Tucker. “We felt secure, living in the area. But now, you hear gunshots every night … We want to feel safe, but this has shattered any sense of security we had.”

Journee’s classmates and teachers at Westhaven Elementary School have reached out to her at LeBonheur. She is in the fourth grade.

Police said no arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing. 

As of Tuesday (Dec. 21), there have been 332 homicides in Memphis. That was the final homicide count in 2020, a record-breaking year.

With 10 more days to go, Memphis Police expect that this year’s count will exceed last year’s record.


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