Harris "Pappy" Bates (second from left), son of Gillian Bates (right), survived the 2000 Easter Monday Family Day shooting at the National Zoo. Tyrone Parker (second from right) united Gillian Bates and Linda Grimes-Jones, mother of Harris Bates' shooter, and supports their efforts to address gun violence in D.C. (Lafayette Barnes IV/The Washington Informer)
Harris "Pappy" Bates (second from left), son of Gillian Bates (right), survived the 2000 Easter Monday Family Day shooting at the National Zoo. Tyrone Parker (second from right) united Gillian Bates and Linda Grimes-Jones, mother of Harris Bates' shooter, and supports their efforts to address gun violence in D.C. (Lafayette Barnes IV/The Washington Informer)

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At the age of 34, Harris “Pappy” Bates continues to relish in the parts of his life that bring him joy, including his budding career as a security professional, moments spent with his fiancé and mother, and phone conversations with a teenage daughter in North Carolina who’s well on her way to adulthood.  

Even with life on the up and up, Bates admits that the events of April 24, 2000, often weigh heavily on his mind. 

On that day, Bates counted among seven children who were shot at the main entrance of the National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest at the culmination of Easter Monday festivities. 

Just feet away from where Bates, his sister and cousins had been standing, two groups of youth were engaged in an altercation that turned violent when Antoine Jones, 16 years old at the time, let off several shots into a crowd. 

Bates, then 11 years old, suffered a gunshot to the back of the head that left him paralyzed, without short-term memory and unable to perform the most basic of functions for a little over a year. Throughout most of his adolescence, Bates encountered developmental challenges that took him from Children’s National Medical Center in Northwest to Hospital for Sick Children on Bunker Hill Road in Northeast and eventually to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. 

By middle school, Bates started attending Kennedy Krieger Institute, a school in Baltimore for children who’ve experienced disorders and injuries similar to his. 

While at that school, Bates, who described himself as a nerd, fell even more deeply in love with mathematics. He also recalled basking in the warmth that teachers and staff provided, especially during the times he lost focus and engaged in mischievous behavior, partially out of frustration with his situation.  

Through it all, Bates acknowledged his family as a constant force in his teenage years. He said many of them traveled from other cities, and eventually set roots in the D.C. area, in the aftermath of the Easter Monday shooting. 

For Bates, no one, perhaps, provided emotional support like his mother throughout middle and high school. 

As he gears up for another Mother’s Day, Bates said he’s looking forward to taking his mother to one of her favorite restaurants where they can spend time and engage in conversation as they’ve always done. 

“My mom was there the whole way,” Bates said. “She didn’t say much [throughout the situation]. She had to stay strong for me. She was like that. She has been like that since I was born. I felt helpless not being able to do anything for myself. It made me feel less of a person.” 

Two Mothers Make a Way 

In the days and weeks after her son was shot, Gillian Bates spoke with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), President Bill Clinton and a bevy of politicians, public officials and nonprofit organizations eager to lend a helping hand. 

Over the next few years, however, Bates would mostly navigate Pappy’s recovery by herself.  She said she dug deep into her soul to not only support Pappy throughout his teenage years, but forge a bond with Linda Grimes-Jones, the mother of the young man who shot Pappy. 

Mother and Pappy Bates, Pappy’s fiance,  and Grimes-Jones recently visited the Informer office in Southeast, D.C. For more than an hour, they reflected on the Easter Monday incident and what has happened in the decades since. 

It was Pappy’s first time meeting Grimes-Jones. 

Also joining the conversation was Tyrone Parker, a founding member and executive director of the Alliance of Concerned Men (ACM), a local nonprofit dedicated to combating juvenile crime and violence. 

Jones, now 37 and out of prison, didn’t make the visit to the Informer. 

In 2003, years after Jones had been tried and convicted of assault with attempt to commit murder, Parker passed along Grimes-Jones’ number to Bates. Days later, the two mothers spoke on the phone for the first time. 

Before then, Bates’ only interaction with Grimes-Jones had been in the courtroom during Jones’ trial. Bates had also known of Jones’ father, James Antonio Jones, an enforcer in Rayful Edmond III’s drug organization who, at that time, was also serving time in the federal prison system. 

Bates, initially hesitant to speak to Grimes-Jones, said the two immediately hit it off on the phone, laughing and crying during their hours-long conversation. The two mothers later learned that they worked near each other. Bates said she also grew to appreciate Grimes-Jones’ efforts to keep her son on a straight and narrow path. 

Over the next two decades, Bates and Grimes-Jones would continue to speak on the phone and go out to eat on occasion before eventually speaking before audiences of mothers and community members about their healing journey. 

Bates and Grimes-Jones’ story has taken them to churches, community-based organizations, libraries and even at an event conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bates, who now considers Grimes-Jones her younger sister, said she holds no ill will toward her or her son, especially since learning more about her and meeting other members of her family. 

“I’m not the type that like[s] to dwell on the bad that happened. I’d like to take it and try to turn it into something good,” Bates said. “Today’s a new day, let’s make it into something a better day.  I believe in forgiveness. I’m not trying to make myself older by sitting back, worrying and stressing myself out [about] things that I have no control over that I really can’t change. And I feel that since that happened, we’ve come a long way.”

In his work with ACM, Parker has facilitated similar truces between survivors of violence and those who’ve perpetuated it against them. For Parker however, this particular situation remains near and dear to his heart because it involves two mothers who found common ground in the midst of tragedy. 

“It was a demonstration of strong Black women that were basically making the most out of nothing and demonstrat[ing] to the world what two mothers could do,” Parker said. 

“These were two guys where terrible things happened one day in their lives [but] they can build [from] it. I think there’s an extraordinary story that we can utilize as an example to help change this whole thing that’s happening nowadays.” 

A D.C. Redemption Song

Jones was released from federal prison in 2020, months after the pandemic started. 

Grimes-Jones said that since then, her son has been working and taking care of his child who’ll soon turn 2 years old. She expressed joy about the strides he has made since coming home. 

Throughout Jones’ childhood, Grimes-Jones tried her best to keep her son away from the shadow of his father’s notoriety. She often implored him to not sell drugs or get into trouble. Grimes-Jones said she also relied on her older son and father to serve as a positive influence in her younger son’s life. 

Throughout Jones’ prison stint, the mother and son often kept in contact, with Grimes-Jones even passing on a letter that Jones wrote to Bates apologizing for the pain he caused Pappy and the rest of the family. 

During his sentencing in 2001, Jones expressed similar sentiments.  

In the years the mothers have traveled throughout the D.C. area to speak with people, Grimes-Jones often expressed her gratitude for Bates’ warmth and understanding. 

She has also lamented how conditions in the District have worsened, specifically as it relates to the proliferation of guns. 

Though the duo hasn’t solidified plans for another speaking engagement, Grimes-Jones said there may be some conversation about stepping out in public again at a time when people across the city are angry and on edge. 

“We’re representing to show that moms can come together, put [differences] aside, and have both of our sons with us,” Grimes-Jones said. 

“Thank God for that. And it’s been a good journey, after all, under the circumstances. Gillian’s like a big sister to me. And the respect is amazing. She’s made me feel very comfortable [in] every situation that we’ve always been in, and I love her for that.”

Sam P.K. Collins photo

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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1 Comment

  1. I am a 71 year old white woman who lives in Atlanta and my heart breaks at the carnage that happens in the black communities everywhere and nothing is ever said about it – young children getting caught in the crossfire – young men shooting one another over what – this is the future of our country – the future doctor with a cure for cancer or the next great artist – it truly breaks my heart but in my lifetime the country has never been racially divided that you cannot even speak of this tragedy – God help us all

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