ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It was a shocking death that rocked the Capital Region. A little girl killed by a stray bullet; the teenaged shooter sent to prison. NEWS10 ABC’s Anya Tucker shares the story of a long journey that began as a tragedy and is now offering hope for change and forgiveness.
Growing up in Guyana, Kathina Thomas had always been told that one day the family would move to America. Her dreams came true when she joined her family in Albany.
“She was finally here. So this is it. She was excited,” said Kathina’s brother George Yhap.
Just 18 months after her arrival, the 10-year old’s American Dream was cut short.
On May 29, 2008, Kathina was playing outside her First Street apartment building when shots rang out. A stray bullet, intended for someone else, struck the little girl in the back. Her older brother George was just getting home from shopping for his high school prom.
“I was bringing home my tuxedo, and people said my sister got shot, and I was like, ‘What?’ It was just kind of crazy,” he recalled.
On the day Kathina was laid to rest, the shooter was arrested. Jermayne Timmons, 15, had intended the bullet for a rival he had confronted on the street.
“Why does a 15-year-old have a gun? That’s why I said there are two victims in that situation. One 15-year-old went to jail, the other, a 10-year-old girl died,” George said.
The details of the tragedy played out in court. Jermayne was tried as an adult and sentenced to 15 years to life.
Anya: “Do you think about that day a lot?”
Jermayne: “I do. I replay. I wish things I would have did. Lord knows I wish I could go back to that day and just take it all back.”
Twelve years after he fired that fatal shot, NEWS10’s Anya Tucker met with Jermayne Timmons at the Fishkill Correctional Facility. The interview took place just days before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Anya: “When did you realize that a little girl had been shot?”
Jermayne: “See, I didn’t even notice right away. No one knew cause there was a lot of shooting going on.”
To understand his thinking, it’s important to see it through a 15-year old’s eyes. Jermayne said, as a kid, he was basically left to raise himself.
“Just lost. I didn’t have any sense of values. No goals. Didn’t understand love for myself or others.”
In the years since Kathina’s death, there have been many other shootings where children were unintended targets. The latest fatality was 11-year-old Ayshawn Davis, of Troy, who was also killed by a stray bullet.
So what did Jermayne want to say to the young people today who are continuing the cycle of violence?
“It’s not worth it,” he said. “How people feel about you trying to put up a tough guy image, it’s not worth it. You’ll lose in the long haul. Like, they out there still living their lives and you are in jail, prison for trying to prove that you’re tough.”
While in juvenile lockups and prison, Jermayne has focused on working on himself. He graduated from high school, and at 28, is currently working on his bachelors in social work. He is also married. But the decisions that landed him here are never far from his mind.
Anya: “What would you say to her family?”
Jermayne: “I just take full responsibility because I was a part of that day. So I don’t want to blame anyone else. I take full responsibility. Let them know that from day one there was never any intention to hurt a child.”
Anya shared Jermayne’s words with Kathina’s brother, George.
Anya:” You have been able to forgive him.”
George: “Yeah. I have a clean heart. I forgive the guy. Like I said, I was young. I was very upset, and I am just trying to leave a legacy behind for her because at the end of the day she was a good kid.”
And if forgiveness for the unforgivable is possible, then why not also change?
“Change is possible, you got to apply yourself,” Jermayne said. “You stay persistent and consistent, dedicated and change is definitely possible.”
Jermayne Timmons is eligible for parole in 2023.
In the years following Kathina’s death, her brother George has focused on spreading a message of anti-violence. He said he hopes Jermayne can join him in his mission once he is released from prison.