Feeling heartsick, I’ve been obsessively following this story since it broke on the local newswire…. Here’s how the LA Times account opens:
Stanford University called about Jamiel Shaw a week or so ago, intrigued by the slight but speedy running back for Los Angeles High School, the Southern League’s most valuable player last year. Rutgers University called a few days later.
The Shaw family already had reason to be proud. Jamiel’s mother, Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, was on her second tour
On Sunday night, a little after eight, it was Jamiel’s father on the phone and then his son’s girlfriend, Chrystale Miles. Jamiel Sr. called to tell him to hurry home from the mall.
Jamiel was a block or two away from home talking on his cell phone to Chrystale when the two other boys rolled up, got out of their little white car, and walked over. “Where you from?” they said. The familiar gang challenge. Jamiel wasn’t from anywhere. He was a church kid, a studier, a football star.
He didn’t answer. He must have just looked at them, unbelieving. The phone line was still open and Chrystale told her brother that she heard a sound like a gust of wind. Then the line went dead.
The wind Chrystale heard was the sound of bullets.
Jamiel’s dad heard the shots too from inside the family house. Without stopping to think, he ran out his front door, raced around the corner and down the next street….where he saw his son bleeding on the pavement.
“She’s over there trying to protect us from guns and bombs, and then she has to hear that her son is dead over here,” he said of his army wife. “I’ve got my own personal Iraq now.”
“Tell me it’s not my son!” the mother sobbed to her sister after she heard.
But it was her son.
I don’t know how parents get over this, I really don’t.
The easy thing will be to demonize the hopeless, screwed-up boys who murdered that mother’s hope. Then, feeling righteous, we can go back to whatever we were doing before we heard the sad news.
The harder thing will be to work form the political will to address this complex mess called gang violence at its core—which every study in the last 20 years has made clear is a task cannot be done solely through law enforcement.
We need to address the fifty-percent and above inner city school drop out rate, the lack of jobs, the fact that a third of LA’s kids living in high gang areas have worse levels of PTSD than soldiers returning from Fallujah…. And so on, and so on. Giving the LAPD the wherewithal to have enough cops on the street wouldn’t hurt either.
And, hey, some of the solutions might require money. (Did I mention that the Iraq war will cost three to five trillion dollars and counting?)
One more thing: It would help if Tony Cardenas, the mayor, Laura Chick, Jan Perry and anyone else who thinks they have political turf to protect, would grow up and stop quarreling over who gets to call the shots in terms of gang prevention and intervention in this city and do something….oh, I don’t know….constructive.