Monday, January 17, 2011

The Shooting Victims

Just over a week ago, Jared Loughner used a 9mm pistol with a large capacity magazine to murder 6 people, including a 9 year-old girl and a federal judge, and wound 13 others, including a member of the House of Representatives, in Tucson, Arizona. Because of the political overtones of this shooting, it has received extensive national and international coverage. As time passes we will surely forget those of the victims who were “only” wounded, except for Representative Gabrielle Giffords. We will soon forget the dead, with 9-year old Christian Taylor Green and federal judge John Roll remaining in our minds a bit longer. It’s the way we deal with this kind of news—we start out being overwhelmed but in time it just fades away.

However, I did not take up keyboard and paper to talk of these shooting victims. There are more than enough people out there dealing with them. I want to talk of the victims that we forget about almost as soon as we hear or read about their deaths. Today, along with its story “Region’s homicide rate up 19%,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch published the names of those who were murdered in the Richmond area in 2010. There were 93 of them. The TD story indicated that 93% of the victims were killed by gunshot, that 75 of the 93 killed were male, that 75 of the 93 victims were black, that 70 of the killings have been cleared by local police. All rather sterile statistics.

For no other reason than that’s where the maven lives, I will publish the names of the victims in the City of Richmond:
January 2010:
Angela Moore, age 41
Brittney Randolph, age 20
Leonicio Deleon, age 43
Tracy Scott, age 42
Shawn Smith, age 26
March 2010
Keith Brunson, age 23
Gavin Pollard, age 21
April 2010
Tyree Jefferson, Jr., age 39
Devin Morse, age 26
Tarchelle Daniel, age 36
Charles Jackson, age 56
William Bagely, Jr., age 38
Christopher Johnson, age 22
Christopher Mackin, age 30
Jeremy Uzzle, age 20
Brandon Webb, age 24
May 2010
Reshawn Thurman, age 23
Carlos Funn, age 21
William Peet, age 29
Jarneal Smith, age 18
July 2010
William Charity, Jr., age 46
Jataynun Fleming, age 22
Keith Bates, age 47
William Ennis, Jr., age 29
Shamari Whittaker, age 22
Tameka Claiborne, age 27
August 2010
Gregory Jones, Jr., age 29
Marcel Davidson, age 20
September 2010
Eric Jackson, age 44
Napoleon Hargrove, Jr., age 42
Lawrence Sykes, age 23
William Howell, age 68
Katrice Robertson, age 25
Sophia Alexander, age 19
October 2010
Terrance Robinson, age 31
Tyler Franks, age 45
Brandon Thomas, age 25
Devon Jones, age 23
James Louis, age 36
November 2010
Christopher Lee, Jr., age 29
Richard Church, age 52
Wendell Jones, age 24
Donald Dock, age 48
December 2010
Terezo Santizo, age 40
Arki White, age 24.

So there they are, good reader. All these people were alive in Richmond on January 1, 2010, but have been taken from us by murder. Were we at all shocked when we read or heard of their deaths? Did we feel as much shock or fear or anger as we did after the Tucson shootings, or three years ago after the Virginia Tech shootings?

Why do we care less for these dead than for the others? Well, I didn’t publish the addresses of the victims, but if you look at them in the TD you will notice that most of them lived in areas we describe as the inner city. And as we all know the inner city is violent. If people live there they have to expect they may be the victims of violent crime. And, did you notice the names? So many of the victims had names that are clearly African American. And, I bet that the people who killed them were probably African Americans, too. Why should I be concerned if blacks kill blacks? It’s not in my neighborhood. It doesn’t affect me. In addition, I bet that most of those murders were drug related—one criminal murdering another. It was inevitable. If they weren’t killed today it would happen in a few weeks. Aren’t we better off after the killing?

I am sure that there are many other reasons why we didn’t pay much attention when we first learned of the deaths of these victims and probably didn’t pay a whole lot more attention when we saw their names in the paper today.

But, let’s look at the list again. What I notice is how young most of them were—in their teens, twenties or thirties. They were all somebody’s sons or daughters, or somebody’s brothers or sisters, or somebody’s cousins or uncles or aunts, or somebody’s lovers. Somebody was deeply grieved when each of them died. Can any mother ever really deal with the violent death of the one she gave life to? What a terrible tragedy each of these deaths was.

So, what are we to make of all this? Reader, we need to start caring more. We need to mourn the deaths of these unknowns in our region as much as we would mourn for a nine year old girl or a federal judge in Tucson. We have to regret the terrible waste of life in these murders as much as we regretted all of those who were cut down at Virginia Tech. We need to recognize that there is a killing epidemic in our midst and that we must find a cure for it. It doesn’t matter if the murder rate goes up a few or down a few. We must realize, in Bob Dylan’s words, “that too many people have died.” And, then, we need to do something about it.

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