The day of the funeral for a 5-year-old Omaha girl killed by a stray bullet, a national organization declared that Nebraska has the highest black homicide rate in the nation.
The statistics that the Washington D.C.-based Violence Prevention Center analyzed do not include the Jan. 15 killing of Payton Benson. The numbers come from 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive national homicide data is available. But a high ranking is not a one-year anomaly.
Thirty black people — including 27 people in Omaha — were killed in homicides in Nebraska in 2011. That translates to a black homicide rate of 34.43 per 100,000 people — twice the national average.
By comparison, a total of 65 people of all races died in homicides in Nebraska in 2011, a rate of less than four per 100,000 people.
The overall national homicide rate was 4.44 per 100,000 people.
The Violence Policy Center, a research and advocacy group that promotes gun control, released the rankings Thursday as part of its annual study, “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States.”
The center analyzed data that the FBI collects each year from local law enforcement agencies.
After Nebraska, the states with the next four highest black homicide rates were Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
Nebraska ranked fourth for 2010, and 11th for 2009.
The center's executive director, Josh Sugarmann, called gun violence a public health crisis affecting all Americans, but especially devastating for African Americans.
In Omaha, City Councilman Ben Gray — whose district includes northeast Omaha and who has been active in anti-violence work — said he is “less interested in the statistics than in what the city, collectively, is going to do about it.”
Omaha knows what issues it has, Gray said.
“But do we have the political will to fix them? And when I say we, I'm talking about all of us,” he said.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Omaha 360 Collaborative and the Empowerment Network announced an anti-violence rally for Saturday, saying that gun violence has affected every part of the city.
The event is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. at Omaha North High School. A tentative list of speakers includes homicide victims' families, Gray, Mayor Jean Stothert and Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.
Earlier versions of this story referred to the burial Thursday of 5-year-old Payton Benson, but a memorial service was held in her honor, and to her Jan. 16 killing. She was slain on Jan. 15.
A previous version of this story gave an incorrect time for the anti-violence rally.