Jere’e Clark was running errands for a special Valentine’s Day surprise for her partner on Feb. 14 when she turned a corner and saw a young boy outside in the snow screaming for help.
“Somebody help me!” The boy cried from his front yard in Swatara Township. “Please!”
Clark, 32, pulled her car over and rolled down her window. The boy was wearing shorts and a shirt with no shoes. His bright red feet indicated he had been outside for a while trying to flag someone down.
“Thank you,” the 10-year-boy said with emphatic relief. “I need you to call 911.”
Clark wheeled her car into his driveway in the 2900 block of Sycamore Street and asked what was going on. His answer was worse than anything she could have imagined.
“I shot my brother,” the boy said.
The statement stunned Clark, who just moments earlier was ordering cupcakes for a celebration, but now found herself in a life or death situation.
She could tell from the look on the boy’s face that this was a terrible accident. She kept her focus and calmly dialed 911 for an ambulance. It was shortly after noon. She asked dispatchers for advice on what to do next.
The dispatchers asked her if she knew where the gun was. The boy said he had returned it to his parents’ closet, where he originally found it.
Clark asked the boy to put his dog up as the dog was anxiously scratching at the door. As he did that, Clark secured her own 5-year-old son who was with her in her car, by cracking the window, keeping the heat on and locking the car doors.
Clark then followed the boy inside the house, unsure of what she was about to see. They went upstairs to his parents’ bedroom, where the wounded 12-year-old boy was.
The younger boy told her the gunshot wound was to his brother’s head. She expected to find a bloody scene, but there was no obvious blood. The weapon the younger brother had accidentally fired was a .22-caliber and there was no exit wound. The injured boy appeared asleep.
Dispatchers told Clark to find a towel or cloth to use to put pressure on the wound. A cloth was already at the side of the boy’s head, where the younger brother had apparently put pressure before running outside for help.
As Clark reached to put pressure on the wound, she broke down crying. The tragedy unfolding in front of her was too much. She was still on the phone with a dispatcher who tried to comfort her.
“She was telling me I was doing fine,” Clark said. “She said, ‘Can you hear the sirens? Help is right around the corner.’”
Clark had such tunnel vision she hadn’t heard the sirens before. She said the police response was incredibly quick. Soon, officers were running up the stairs and she backed away, allowing them to take over until the ambulance arrived.
An ambulance rushed the 12-year-old to a hospital, while a second ambulance stayed at the scene. Police put Clark in the second ambulance where she could wait to be questioned by investigators. Police kept the 10-year-old boy inside to wait for his parents to arrive home. The parents had gone to a Valentine’s Day brunch but were notified of the shooting and rushed home.
Clark left the scene at about 2:30 p.m., more than two hours after she initially pulled over to offer help.
She had been praying every day that the wounded boy would pull through. She posted on her Facebook page to ask for friends’ prayers.
But after 11 days in the hospital, the boy died from his injuries Thursday.
The news devastated Clark. She has been struggling with guilt that she could have done more.
“If anyone knows their parents please have them contact me,” she posted on her Facebook page Friday. “I owe them an apology. I tried my best.”
Stopping to help the boy wasn’t the first time Clark has answered a call for help. She’s gained a reputation in recent years with people who know her best.
A former-boyfriend used to tease her, saying “You’re always stopping for people!” But then he also started finding opportunities to help strangers or motorists whose cars had broken down, she said.
Her current partner showed up at the shooting scene on Valentine’s Day for support and told officers about Clark: “She’s gifted or blessed because she stops for everybody.”
District Attorney Fran Chardo said Clark’s actions impressed him in a day when many people are looking to avoid getting involved.
“She exhibited grace under pressure in responding to a tragic event,” he said.” She had no way of knowing that this would be thrust upon her but she acted without hesitation while others just drove on.”