Ubiquitous violence…who’s next?

A man was shot and killed on a recent Monday morning in the City of St. Louis, well before eight o’clock had rolled around.

The sun was out and it was a pretty nice day, especially for the end of October in St. Louis, Missouri.

The man was minding his own business, doing whatever it is that retirees do when it’s that early in the morning, probably knocking out some errands early so that he could get to the more enjoyable activities in his life later on in the day.

Three boys were involved in the incident that led to this man being shot and killed on that recent Monday morning.

The boys were not minding their own business though, or doing whatever it is that young boys should be doing that early on a Monday morning in late October. They were busy doing what they wanted to be doing instead.

The man was sixty-seven years old.

The boys were fifteen, sixteen and seventeen years old.

The boys should have either been in school, or on their way to school or at least at home getting ready for school.

Instead of doing what they were supposed to be doing, they were driving around in a stolen car, apparently looking to rob somebody.

Why were they out looking to rob somebody on that nice Monday morning?

That’s a million dollar question, since armed robberies happen so often in so many urban areas these days. It’s something that I hope the boys will be asked, for sure.

Maybe it was just for kicks that they had a handgun and went out to rob somebody, or for the rush that must come with confronting a stranger on a public sidewalk with a gun, or maybe they needed milk money or cash for a school field trip that their parents couldn’t afford.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. There is no reasonable excuse for why they were doing what they were doing.

They were armed bullies.

The man was white and the boys were black. Does that matter to this story at all?

Without knowing more, I would suggest that it doesn’t really matter.

Not this time.

I read dozens of police reports every month, and it would seem as though robbers aren’t very discriminating when it comes to who they’ll victimize.

White men? Sure.

Black men? Very often, maybe daily city-wide.

Black women? Every week on the South Side alone.

White women? Get in line, ladies. You’ll get a turn.

There used to be some dignity or honor among thieves, but that is no longer the case from my perspective.

It is completely normal for a victim to describe his or her robber as being young or young looking, sometimes as young as ten or twelve years old.

Ruminate on that for a minute.

Twelve year old boys are out on the streets with handguns committing robberies, and it isn’t surprising to any of us.

It should shock us to our very core, but it doesn’t.

It’s hard for me to fathom that while boys this age are out committing very serious and dangerous crimes, my own fifteen year old is worried about how to make her Eggo box fit into her backpack so she can go trick or treating as Eleven from Stranger Things for Halloween.

That’s what these kids should be doing, not robbing and killing.

It’s like Americans are living in alternate realities, right before our very eyes.

Is it any wonder that as the criminals have gotten younger that the victims have become more random?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in this age where so few people respect anybody different than themselves, that women and men alike, young and old as well, are free game on the streets.

There was a time when it was almost unheard of for a woman to be the victim of a homicide, but nowadays, it’s just another number on the annual tally sheet.

Other than their ages, I don’t know anything about these boys.

Were they abused?

Were they poor?

Were they fatherless?

Did some oppressive system of government fail them?

It doesn’t seem as though they came from bad homes, and it doesn’t matter to me. I’m so tired of people saying that it does.

Stop making excuses for the criminals!

The local paper has covered the murder of this particular man in some detail, because he was a retired St. Louis City Police Officer. A popular one at that.

He was a good man; a fun man, and he has other family members who have and still serve this city.

The same city where he lost his life.

The dead man spent thirty-three years working as a police officer and sergeant in the City of St. Louis.

Those thirty-three years total nearly half of his entire lifespan.

He was killed on a street that he probably drove upon as a uniformed police officer hundreds of times.

I wonder if he took the job all those years ago wanting to help people, with personal ideals that he’ll leave the city in a better place than it was when he started his job as a police officer.

Through no fault of his own, however, it is not a better place than when he started.

It is not a better place than when I started.

It will not be a better place than when the next class of recruit graduates start either, if things don’t change.

There is much animosity in this country, and it is most glaring along any line that divides us by race or wealth, two things that aren’t nearly as mutually exclusive as they should be in 2018, and that are most obvious in urban areas where blacks and whites and the rich and poor live in close proximity.

It should come as no surprise that people who can’t agree on whether or not abortion should be lawful or gay people should be able to buy cakes hinting at their lifestyle at any damn bakery they please or everyone who works any job should be making at least $15 an hour also can’t agree on what to do about crime.

Crime doesn’t affect the people in charge of making political or judicial decisions as much as it does the rest of us.

Most of them live in safer communities and are offered special government protections with a simple phone call.

Everyday violent crime has basically become second page news in most large cities.

People get shot and killed every single day, and we’re all immune and way too accepting of it.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife wanted to go to one of our favorite restaurants in the city, and one of the reasons I didn’t want to go is because, “we’re more likely to get robbed in the city.”

I was only half-kidding, and we did end up going, and we did’t get robbed, of course. Most people live in and visit major cities and are never victims of anything more than a property crime like theft or vandalism.

Still, sometimes, when you’re out doing even mundane things on nice Tuesday mornings before it’s even 8 am, you do get robbed, and when you’re a retired police officer, you fight back because that’s what’s in your blood.

The man who died that day, our friend Ralph, shot at one of the robbers and hit him, which is what led to his arrest. Even in death, a real first responder responds.

In that way, I guess, he did make the city a little bit better on his last day on earth than it was the day he began his career as a police officer.


The ever classy New York Yankees send a bouquet of flowers to the funeral of every police officer killed in the line of duty in the United States, and in this case, even for a retired officer who was killed doing what he no doubt thought was his duty.

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10 Responses to Ubiquitous violence…who’s next?

  1. I don’t know if your city will be a better place than it used to be when you are done serving it, Don, but I do have an idea that it will be a better place than it would have been if you had not served it. Nice to see you again, and best wishes to you and your family.

  2. Heide says:

    Maybe from your seat in the squad car, the city doesn’t seem like a better place than when you started. But from where I sit, you ARE making a positive difference through posts like these. Thank you for keeping the conversation going, Don, and for encouraging us to consider the nuanced shades-of-gray questions in a world that is increasingly black-and-white.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss, Don. And thank you for your continued determination to stand for what’s right and good and true – both in your work and in your writing.

  4. Mary Pat McInnis says:

    As always, very well said. I have missed seeing your posts. You do make a difference and so did the fallen retired officer. Hope all is well.

  5. Mary Wilding says:

    A little over 3 years ago my son was on duty and a call came in about an armed robbery. Three 17 year olds in a stolen car used a gun to rob a man walking home at 3AM. There was a car chase. They bailed and ran. The police chased. My son hopped over a short wall to back up a fellow officer trying to get the final suspect in custody. In the pitch black alley he didn’t see that there was a 15 foot drop. He fell and hit his head. He died less than 24 hours later. He was only 29. He left behind a wife, 2 young kids, his sister and me. Race wasn’t an issue. My son is white. Two defendants are black. One is white. All had records. One was even wearing a monitoring bracelet that night. Why did my son die? For want of a cigar. They wanted a cigar and didn’t have money for it. After the final court date one defendant told a deputy “I guess I got cred now” as they returned him to jail. He was offically a cop killer. And he was proud of it.

  6. Thanks for the post Don. Other than shine a light, not much else you can do. And you do it well. Keep well. MB

  7. Paul Meisch says:

    Our own Mayor is a victim of violent crime and we can all see where she prioritizes our safety. Another frigging run at a Soccer franchise. And better features at our free zoo. This taxpayer pisses $6300+ in real estate taxes a year for a modest home with a murder across the street this year. If the city cared about it’s crime problem, they would fix the broken equalization system which would flood our city coffers with resources. However, this would cause the people on the hill to get an uncomfortable tax bill, and we can’t have that, can we Alderman Coatar? This system is rigged against the first responders and the politically disenfranchised. Shhhh…gotta raise sales taxes again. Don’t want to investigate why mansions and their owners pay a pittance towards the city’s infrastructure. There is a Pulitzer in this if somebody ever wants to pull back the curtain on City Hall malfeasance. Even Elliot Davis won’t touch this one. Shame on out Mayor and our elected officials for scratching their heads and holding their breath until the next senseless tragedy.

  8. markbialczak says:

    I am so sorry for your city’s loss, Don. Our loss, too.

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