JONESBORO — A police report that told of a 16-year-old male being shot in the back and his 15-year-old male friend being shot in the wrist by a suspect who then fled the scene Monday night wasn’t what it seemed to be.

Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said Tuesday that detectives found out the 15-year-old was playing with a handgun when it discharged, striking both teens.

The incident happened at about 10:50 p.m. in the 2000 block of Belt Street, according to police.

Both teens were treated at the scene and taken to St. Bernards Medical Center for additional treatment.

But the shootings highlight an increasing problem that is occurring not only in Jonesboro, but nationwide.

According to an Associated Press story on Oct. 11, the United States saw 991 gun violence deaths among people 17 or younger in 2019, according to the website Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources. That number spiked to 1,375 in 2020 and this year is on pace to be worse. Through Monday, shootings had claimed 1,179 young lives and left 3,292 youths injured.

FBI data backs that up. The agency released a report on Sept. 28 showing homicides in the U.S. increased nearly 30 percent in 2020, and homicides among people ages 19 and younger rose more than 21 percent.

Other shootings involving juveniles in the past couple of years include:

On Thursday, a 47-year-old Jonesboro man and 44-year-old Jonesboro woman told police that four teens ranging from ages 14-18 shot at their residence and kicked in the door.

Police responded to a call at 12:25 a.m. on Pineview Street.

The teens could face charges of aggravated assault, aggravated residential burglary and fleeing.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon.

In August, a Jonesboro woman was charged with aggravated assault, first-degree battery and criminal mischief by District Judge Tommy Fowler after a shooting left a 17-year-old female wounded.

Asia Frazier, 22, of 1131 Walker Place, was accused of shooting the teen, who was treated at St. Bernards Medical Center for a gunshot wound to the left forearm. The wound was described by police as minor.

On May 16, police responded to a “man with a gun” at the intersection of Hope Avenue and Patrick Street. The victim, a juvenile, was found with a gunshot wound to his left arm. The victim was treated on scene then transported to a local hospital for further treatment. This incident is under investigation.

Officers responded to a shooting near the intersection of Aggie Road and North Fisher Street on May 14. Officers located a male victim, 16, with a gunshot wound to the right leg. A tourniquet was applied on scene, and he was transported to an area hospital for further treatment. The incident remains under investigation.

In March, 16-year-old male victim was shot in the arm. Carnell Kelly, of Jonesboro, Tyree Ayala, of Jonesboro, and a 15-year-old male were detained.

In November 2019, a then-16-year-old boy was charged as adult in connection with a shooting on Pineview Street in north Jonesboro. Charlie Partain, of Jonesboro, was charged in Craighead County Circuit Court with committing a terroristic act.

The incident occurred the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2019. Police who responded to the call said they found three bullet holes on the south side of the apartment building, as well as bullet holes on the inside of the building. Kameron Irby, of Jonesboro, was also charged with committing a terroristic act and was identified as the driver in the drive-by shooting.

Elliott said shootings involving juveniles have increased locally.

“We’ve seen numbers change,” he said. “Juvenile incidents of violent crimes have changed.”

Elliott said juveniles involved in gang activity are on the rise.

“Gang culture is being played out in movies and on TV,” he said. “It glamorizes the culture.”

Elliott also said broken families make juveniles gravitate to drugs and gangs.

“Once you get into that lifestyle, it’s hard to get out,” he said. “You may have to commit a crime to get into a gang. It’s problematic.”

He said to combat gang activity for school-age juveniles, school resource officers do what they can do to help teens.

“It’s not 100 percent effective, but it’s taking a proactive approach,” Elliot said, adding that gang activity is reaching into elementary schools.

He said youths are able to get their hands on guns through residential and vehicle break-ins where guns are stolen.

He said a pawn shop burglary a couple of years ago put many guns on the street.

Elliott said the evidence room at JPD has hundreds of guns that were taken off of the streets, but he still worries about his officers facing guns in the street.

He said he hears about the attitudes that some juveniles have and that they don’t understand the consequences of their actions.

“You try to talk to them, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t care,’” Elliott said. “They literally don’t care who that bullet may hit.”

He said you can’t blame the guns, but the people who use them.