Toppling the Trigger: Evanston Township High School

This story contains detailed descriptions and discussions of gun violence.

The last time Carolyn Murray saw her son alive, he told her he loved her before boarding a flight to San Diego, where he was living. She almost saw him again, when he flew home to Evanston for a surprise visit. But before Justin Murray could reach his mother, a bullet got in the way. He was killed on Nov. 29, 2012, less than half a mile from Evanston Township High School, his alma mater. He was 19.

“I feel like I failed him as a mother because I couldn’t protect him,” Carolyn Murray said. “So for the rest of my life, I have to advocate for gun violence to protect him.”

Justin Murray is one of multiple ETHS students and recent graduates who have been shot to death since 2007. Others include Darryl Shannon Pickett, Dajae Coleman, Kaylyn Pryor and Yakez Semark. For their parents, these shooting deaths have often led to activism in various forms — from establishing memorial scholarships to organizing gun buyback events. The murders, along with mass shootings across the U.S., have also sparked activism among ETHS students.

In the first episode of The Daily Northwestern’s new documentary series, Toppling the Trigger, parents and activists discuss how these losses have impacted their lives, ETHS and Evanston as a whole.