Family, friends remember Zaniyah Burns, 7, a year after she was shot and killed

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FLINT (WJRT) (10/9/2019) - Family and friends gathered Wednesday evening to remember the life of 7-year-old Zaniyah Burns one year after she was shot and killed inside her home.

Zaniyah Burns was 7 when she died after being shot in the head by a bullet fired outside her home on West Austin Avenue in Flint.

Her young life was cut short Oct. 9, 2018, when a bullet fired outdoors traveled through the wall of her living room on West Austin Avenue and hit her in the head.

Another candlelight vigil Wednesday evening brought the community together to keep her memory alive.

Her family has struggled with their immense loss over the past year, but Burns' grandmother said she forgives the gunman.

"Of course I want him to do his time, but am I angry? No," Sonya Long said.

The Flint Police Department arrested Jamil Griggs, who now is 18, in the days after the shooting and he was charged with Zaniyah's murder. Police say Griggs was aiming for Zaniyah's uncle when he fired at the house.

"I remember it like yesterday. And oddly enough, it was a beautiful day like today, above normal weather, sun shining and she was so happy," Long said.

That's how she'll always remember Zaniyah.

"How we have to remember the way she left. It's a tragedy, but her memories are so warm and loving and that's what I want to honor, is her being warm and loving and just a happy go lucky child," Long said.

To push forward, she often looks at artwork she found just a few days after Zaniyah's death.

"It's a potion and it says, 'Potion to make people love each other and to be kind.' A 7-year-old. This is what she thinks," Long said.

Her whole family has struggled to make it through this past year. But, she's using her heartache to fuel her fight against violence in the community.

"Hearing gunshots should never be the norm for anyone, especially children," Long said.

Before someone pulls the trigger, she wants them to think about whose lives they're affecting...

"Everybody is hurt. It's a domino effect all over the place and it's just really gotta stop, because everybody's hurting. Hurt people hurt other people," Long said.

She believes the solution starts in homes and communities rather than policymakers.

"I'm sorry. People might be mad at me, but it starts at home," she said.

Griggs is scheduled to stand trial on murder charges in November.