Suicide by Cop

National attention has been given to the mass murder of nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina. On June 17, parishioners were attending the Wednesday evening Bible Study service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. A young white visitor had come for other purposes, and after listening for about an hour—and almost changing his mind—he used his Glock 45 caliber pistol to shoot and kill nine people including the pastor who was conducting the services. The headline in the USA Today section of our Saturday morning paper read ‘HATE DOESN’T WIN,’ reflecting the words of other parishioners and relatives who had let the Christian message of loving your enemies penetrate their souls.

That was Wednesday night, June 17. On Friday morning, June 19, we in Cincinnati experienced an equally senseless murder. A 21-year-old black man, Trepierre Hummons, placed two 911 calls about a man waving a gun and behaving in a threatening manner. When the first policeman, Sonny Kim, responded, he saw the situation. The mother of Hummons had become concerned about her son and had found him in the street shortly before Officer Kim arrived. The newspaper report read this way:

“As Hummons approached Kim, police say, Hummons’ mother stood between the two men and told Kim, ‘I’ll take him home.’ Then her son drew his gun. And Kim drew his. Hummons shot Kim multiple times and, soon after, wrestled away the officer’s Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun, police say. He then began shooting at a probation officer who had stopped to assist on his way to work. Another police offer, Tom Sandmann, came under fire as soon as he arrived on the scene. While Hummons’ mother tried to help the dying Kim in the street, her son turned Kim’s gun on Sandmann and began firing, police say.   Sandmann took cover behind his car, returned fire and fatally wounded Hummons.”

The paper reported that the seeds of this disaster were possibly planted early that morning, just after midnight. A woman filed a sex offense report against Hummons who was well known to the police. Hummons’ mother later told police that her son was having troubles with his girlfriend and wasn’t acting like himself. Early in the morning he had texted his friends, “I really love you and thank you for all you’ve ever done for me.” On his public Facebook page he posted an ominous message: “I love every last one of y’all to whoever has been in my life … you’re the real mvp.” The message was dated at 8:55 a.m., just eight minutes before he placed the first 911 call about a belligerent man with a gun.

This came as Cincinnati was already reeling or being roiled about the number of homicides that are up considerably from last year at this time. The police chief was recently ordered to come up with a plan within a very short time to stop this violence.

That is a very bad joke. Aside from turning the city, or at least its hot spots, into a police state, how can any city stop its violence in 90 days? The roots are deep.

That same Friday afternoon, after I had finished a business transaction, I asked the young black female clerk if she had grown up in Cincinnati. Yes, she had. I asked if she had ever heard anything about morality or commandments in her public education. She replied in the negative and then added that in her high school they were not permitted to say the Pledge of Allegiance because it contained the words “under God.”

Concerning both of these tragedies, many will ask themselves, “Why?” Or is the better question, “Why not?”

More on this next week.

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