You may know reporter Sarah Okeson’s work through Raw Story’s partnership with DC Report.
Today, we learned that her 24-year-old daughter, Aviva Okeson-Haberman, was tragically killed in what appears to be an incident involving a random, stray bullet.
Okeson-Haberman worked at KCUR in Kansas City, which described her as an accomplished reporter.
“The killing appeared to be the result of a bullet that pierced one of the windows of her first-floor apartment in the Santa Fe neighborhood. She was discovered there in the 2900 block of Lockridge Avenue on Friday afternoon by a colleague who had gone to check on her after she’d failed to respond to messages throughout the day,” the station reported. “She was an especially beloved friend and colleague just beginning what promised to be a brilliant career. We, at KCUR, join her family and friends in mourning her passing.”
She had been planning on leaving that apartment.
“Hours before she was shot, she’d been looking at an apartment in Lawrence. She was moving into a new role covering social issues and criminal justice for the Kansas News Service, a statewide reporting partnership based at KCUR,” the station reported.
“Aviva had already demonstrated outstanding reporting skills. She joined KCUR in June 2019 as the Missouri politics and government reporter, having interned at the station a year earlier and impressed the newsroom with her work ethic, diligence, conscientiousness and eagerness to learn. Above all, she was sweet, kind and gracious, giving little hint of the strength of purpose that made her such a skilled and tough reporter.”
KCUR news director Lisa Rodriguez described her as “brilliant.”
“Even as an intern, her approach to storytelling and her ability to hold those in power accountable paralleled many a veteran reporter,” Rodriguez explained. “She was quiet, which made it all the more satisfying to hear her challenge politicians and hold her ground, even when people in positions of great power tried to belittle her.”
The Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri highlighted Okeson-Haberman’s work in 2019, before she graduated, for her experience as a Reynolds Journalism Institute Digital Ambassador. The program had Okeson-Haberman spend a week working at the West Plains Daily Quill newspaper.
As an @RJI Potter Digital Ambassador – a program pairing students with rural newspapers for multimedia and social m… https://t.co/0c0WAFWTXc
— Mizzou Journalism (@Mizzou Journalism)1548258533.0
She wrote in the newspaper about the experience.
“I’m a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism studying multimedia investigative reporting. I’ve spent the past week in West Plains as part of the Potter Digital Ambassador Program. It pairs students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism with rural Missouri newspapers. Most of my journalism experience thus far has been at public radio stations so it was a nice change of pace to learn more about how a newspaper operates,” she explained. “The ambassador program also allowed me to take the training I’ve received at school and pass it along to local reporters.”
Rodriguez, her news director at KCUR, described how she utilized what she had learned.
“Her instincts as a journalist were spot-on. Aviva knew when something was amiss and was unrelenting in her pursuit of the truth,” Rodriguez said. “I learned so much from her. Earlier this year, I turned down a pitch she had for a series — an audio diary of nurses fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. Eventually, she wore me down and we agreed to one story. That piece was one of the most beautiful and emotional pieces of radio I’ve listened to. It brought me to tears each time I listened to it. That was just the kind of storyteller she was — she brought magic to everything.”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly put out a statement on the shooting.
“My thoughts and condolences are with Aviva’s family, loved ones, and everyone at KCUR,” Kelly said.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas posted a Twitter thread celebrating her life.
Thank you @DanMargolies for sharing the story of an amazing life. https://t.co/rFKllQfvUe
— Mayor Q (@Mayor Q)1619378771.0