In March, The Huffington Post began talking to teens and adults throughout the U.S. about their experiences with gun violence. This is one individual's story. You can read others here.
Jerrod Allen, 26, lives in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. After leaving home as a young teenager, Allen lost many of his closest friends to death or prison. Allen was with his friend, Jamal “Big Pun” Coates, just moments before he was shot and killed on D.C.'s U Street in 2010. Allen has an infant son and works security at a local bar:
You could say 75 percent of my best friends are locked up or dead. Let's be honest; that's fucked up.
I didn't really have a childhood. I felt like I grew up too quick.
I saw a gun was when I was 12, 13. It was a black, beat-up old revolver. One of my friends I went to school with at the time, he was talking this shit one day and he pulled it out. Yeah, that was my first time seeing a gun, it wasn't no big deal.
But the first time I really experienced the real truth and violence of streets -- I have to say -- now I had heard stories, I done see people get locked up, heard about people and shootouts and all this shit. But the first time really had to have been, I want to say I was about 17, 18.
I had moved out and stayed over with a friend of mine. I'm sitting in my friend’s room, we might have been playing a game, we might have been smoking. And I hear 50-plus shots, like gun shots. You just kept hearing them, for like a minute and a half, two minutes. You just heard shots. It was almost a moment, you just stuck, everything slowed down for a minute -- like, was that that?
Ten, 15 minutes later we was talking and my neighbor comes and knocks and says, "There's a guy layin' out here with a green Eddie Bauer coat on, anybody know who that is?" At the time, it didn't dawn on us. One of our dudes always wears that coat, but we was like, nah, couldn't have been him. Five minutes later, the older lady neighbor comes back and says it's our friend. We go downstairs, go outside, walk into the courtyard. People are outside of the building crying. The ambulance is picking up bodies.
Five people were shot, two people dead, one person shot nine, 10 times -- he survived. All of them were my friends.
It's one of them things when like, when you get that many people shot at one particular time, it's almost like, the end of world, the prospect of the end of the world. You that scared, it's almost on that level. Anybody could have walked in and out of that house. Anybody could have been a victim that day.
Nothing really ever went back to normal after that. Everything is cool; we'll be sitting out here chucking it up, but it's never gonna be the same. It's like a dark cloud.
It's okay, everybody gotta get over it. But at the same time, I'm real fucked up that that happened ...
Jamal Coates, yeah, that's my man Pun. Everybody called him Pun.
I gravitated to the dude, you know what I'm saying. Poverty growing up, wasn't the best of living arrangements but, you know, made it work. There wasn't no fuss about it with him -- smile on his face every time you see him.
The day Jamal died we were at a funeral for [Ashley McRae, 21]. The girl had lived in our same complex, everyone knew her.
There was a lot of tension that day, a lot of people around each other that did not like each other. The church was full so there were a lot of people standing outside. You can just tell that shit is building up out there, and this hatred is already to a point where people have died, people have got shot over shit, and shit is still stemming. That day was almost like a movie, you could feel this shit.
People were getting ready to go the burial site and Pun and two of my friends asked me, "What you gonna do? You gonna ride out there?" And so at this point, I opted out ... I felt it.
I dapped all three of 'em up, "See ya, man. I'm gonna see y'all later." I didn't even walk off at this point, they walked to the car. I'm sitting there -- it felt like less than five minutes, maybe like three minutes and you just heard the shots.
Nobody knew nothing, somebody told me it was them in one of the cars driving off. I said, "It couldn't have been, I just dapped them people off, couldn't have been them." So I'm calling my man Pun, calling him, calling him. He wasn't picking up.
I went down to Ontario Park. I didn't go around people from the neighborhood. Not that I was mad at them, but that situation hit me differently.
I needed to reflect, and be away, and zone out in my own lane. Just thinking bout all the good times, and the fact that someone would actually come to a funeral and actually kill someone else. I did want to retaliate; it did cross my mind. But if I'm really going to retaliate I have to do the same thing they did.
I think about Pun every time I come out here -- come out my house. Every time I hear this Patti LaBelle song -- I know it's kind of some soft shit -- but Patti LaBelle got this song "If Only You Knew." If I heard that joint right now, I'm gonna start crying. Every time I hear that song for him specifically. It just seems like she's talking to me about that man when I hear that joint.
Man, if you only you knew how much I loved you, you know what I'm saying?
As told to Preston Maddock.