Nearly a dozen family members of Nyota Bawili gathered outside the Spring Valley Funeral Home on Tuesday morning, reeling from their sudden and unexpected loss.
Bawili, 39, had just moved to Louisville six months ago, leaving Florida behind for the better job opportunities the city promised. She came to the United States about six years prior, fleeing the violence and war of her native country — the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
When a bullet tore through her home in the early hours of Sunday while she and her husband were watching TV, it fatally wounded the mother of seven who was waiting on the birth of her eighth child. She was just shy of six months pregnant.
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“To see my wife dead in front of me and in front of our 13-month-old child — that is the most devastating thing I’ve experienced in life,” her husband Patrick Pili Pili said, interpreted by family friend Rolend Butsitsi.
As refugees who came to the United States in search of the American dream, Butsitsi said his family and community couldn’t have imagined this tragedy.
“Knowing they moved from a country of war to one of the best countries in the world, we never thought this would happen,” he said.
But Louisville has endured an unprecedented level of violence for the past two years and thus far into 2022, the pace has been unrelenting, too.
In the first nine days of the year, someone was fatally wounded at least every other day. Bawili became the third pregnant woman to be shot to death in the past six weeks.
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She was shot in the 5000 block of Wabash Place on Jan. 9 just before 2 a.m. Along with her husband, four of their children were in the home, too.
One day earlier, Jakia Holt died Jan. 8 at University of Louisville Hospital from multiple gunshot wounds.
Holt, 36, was shot Jan. 3 in the 4200 block of Northwestern Parkway on the edge of Portland and Shawnee, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office said.
Local activist Christopher 2X told The Courier Journal that Holt was 5 months pregnant when she was found shot in a vehicle.
Both Bawili and Holt’s fatal shootings will be classified as double homicides by Louisville Metro Police, based off Kentucky’s Fetal Homicide statute. This brings the department’s homicide count to eight for the year.
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The third recent pregnant victim was 20-year-old Shania Lee Summers, who was shot while riding in car along Interstate 264 near Cane Run Road.
It was about 2 a.m. Nov. 30 when another vehicle pulled alongside theirs and fired several rounds at the vehicle, Shively Police Sgt. Patrick Allen said.
She was taken to University of Louisville Hospital in critical condition and died Dec. 3. Summers, a 2019 Central High graduate, was about four months pregnant and had planned to name her daughter MaKinze Lee, according to their shared obituary.
For Bawili’s family, who just moved to the area and haven’t had any issues with anyone, they said, there is no fathomable explanation as to why her life was taken.
“Whoever did this, wherever they are, it really left me with a big scar and a big task,” her husband said. “He or she took my best friend away and as a widow of seven kids, with the last being a 13-month-old, I don’t know where to start or to finish.
“Why did you do this?”
Contact reporter Krista Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.