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For Yesenia Parker and her family, it is a nightmare they relive in their minds over and over again. Imagine as an 11-year-old being shot in the face at point-blank range by your own father. That is exactly what happened to Yesenia Parker back in January in the family’s Camden home. The bullet traveled down the right side of the seventh grader’s lung and continued its path, eventually ripping through her spinal cord.
“It’s not my daughter’s fault what happened,” Shandar Parker, Yesenia’s mother, said during an interview over the summer at Harmony House, NCC’s transitional housing facility for homeless families. “She was just an 11-year-old at the time who had everything going for her and who loved singing, playing and running….to one day have it all ripped from her…How could you do this to your own flesh and blood?”
Yesenia’s father, Byaer Johnson, now in jail awaiting trial, apparently came to the Parker house in an apparent fit of jealously over Yesenia’s mother. He just walked toward his daughter, Yesenia, telling her to “shut-up” before pulling the trigger. Johnson also tried to shoot the mother’s boyfriend, Will Mitchell, but the gun jammed and the two ended up wrestling for the gun, with Mitchell ultimately able to take control.
Yesenia, however, was left paralyzed by the shooting and her family’s life was turned upside down. Now in a wheelchair, Yesenia, and her mother, along with Yesenia’s 6-year-old sister, Sameerah, were taken in by New Community’s Harmony House after their Camden landlord refused to let them return following her hospitalization.
“We didn’t have anywhere to go and no one in South Jersey could seem to help us,” said Shandar Parker, a 29-year-old single mother, who also has an 8-year-old daughter, Serenity. “I am originally from Newark and had stayed there (at Harmony House) before in 2005 when I didn’t have enough money to pay my rent.”
At Harmony House, a complex of 102 apartments for homeless families, the Parkers were placed in a first floor apartment, which made for easy access for Yesenia’s wheelchair. All have received counseling through New Community’s Family Service Bureau in an effort to help them deal with the post-traumatic stress of the shooting.
Just a few weeks ago, the family was moved out of Harmony House into a handicapped accessible apartment at Ocean Bayview in Jersey City, a low-income family townhouse complex owned and managed by New Community Corporation.
Zoraya, this should happen within the next week, so story may be updated and another photo sent.
Shandar Parker admits she still goes through periods of depression and anxiety, but knows she must remain strong for her children, especially Yesenia, who struggles to stay positive. An aspiring lawyer, Yesenia likes to watch television shows like Law & Order and CSI. Her emotions run the gamut from anger to depression to hope.
“I want to get up out of this chair,” Yesenia said one day over the summer, while watching a group of younger children frolicking in the playground at New Community Harmony House.
Her mother will not stop believing her daughter will one day do it.