The dark side of TikTok came to a head when a 14-year-old girl was shot and killed while she and her friends were filming a video intended for TikTok in a southern Colorado city. What makes the situation worse is that several of the girl’s family members believe the shooting was deliberate, and are not happy with the response from Colorado’s criminal justice system.
Aaliyah Salazar was set to begin her freshman year in high school when she was killed by a member of her friend group filming the video with her. Aaliyah, 14, is seen dancing in the video with someone in the background who then begins to “fiddle with something” according to police who obtained a copy of the video. Just a few beats later Aaliyah was shot in the head, but it is unclear if this moment was captured on the video. According to local news outlet 9News, charges were filed against two juveniles earlier this week, including felony manslaughter and misdemeanor possession of a weapon. Because of the age of the offenders, the maximum they could face is just six years. An adult, 21, is also charged with providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a gun, although he was not on the scene during the shooting.
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Police indicate that there is some discrepancy in eyewitness affidavits, as one of the teens on the scene claimed to have seen another teen aim the gun at Aaliyah’s head and fire. Yet, that same teen later told police that “it could be on accident,” according to 9News.
However, Aaliyah’s grandfather and guardian disagrees and believes that his granddaughter was killed on purpose. Gary Sanchez didn’t indicate why he believes the shooting was a murder rather than manslaughter or a tragic accident but did tell a 9News reporter via Zoom that the potential six-year sentencing is too lenient.
“The frustration I’ve got with that is if you take a life you should have to pay for it dearly,” Gary said. “Not with a slap on the hand and say don’t do it again.”
Also problematic to Sanchez and other members of Aaliyah’s family is the system’s focus on the teen offenders and their rehabilitation, rather than on the loss of Aaliyah’s life on what effect it has on her loved ones.
Amid Aaliyah’s tragic death is the appointment of a new District Attorney, Anne Kelly, who replaces Alonzo Payne. Payne was facing a recall election and resigned before it could take effect after an extensive investigation into his conduct by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. He was accused of sloppy work and judicial misconduct after it was found that he “yelled at crime victims and staff, showed up late to meetings, missed follow-ups required by law and didn’t consult victims when it came to plea deals or dismissing cases.”
Kelly’s appointment takes effect on September 1. Prior to this Colorado’s Attorney General’s office has been handling the case. Although Kelly told 9News that she “looks forward to speaking with crime victims in these cases and having a chance to review them,” she cannot comment on any specifics as there is a court order against pre-trial publicity in place.
Let’s hope Aaliyah gets the justice she deserves, her family can one day find peace, and TikTok stays firmly in the hands of social media influencers, not violent offenders.