Since May of 2020, the nation has witnessed growing lawlessness. Compared to 2019, violence in cities like Chicago drove the year-over-year national murder rate higher by nearly 30 percent in 2020. That single-year murder-rate increase is the largest ever recorded. While the final 2021 national murders statistics will not be released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) until later this year, we already know that last year lawlessness and violence remained at elevated levels. Saturday, in Chicago and Milwaukee the nation witnessed more lawlessness in the centers of those two cities. A 16-year-old boy was murdered near the Bean (Cloud Gate) sky sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Two others were also shot in downtown Chicago as the night progressed. In downtown Milwaukee, 21 people were shot in three separate shootings, in the blocks surrounding Fiserv Forum, following the NBA playoff basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. In Buffalo, lawlessness does not begin to describe the tear in the social fabric. Pure evil was on full display with the deliberate taking of ten lives. The Buffalo carnage was streamed live on the Twitch social media site by the offender. For those who are apt to find social forces as a ready excuse for criminal acts of cruelty, the streamed video is definitive proof of the existence of pure evil. Hateful, demonic evil. Not only must law and order return to the nation’s cities, this one nation under God must seek revival and renounce all such evil.
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Evil in Buffalo
Around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, 14 May 2022, an 18-year-old offender, wearing a tactical helmet, body armor, and body camera – and armed with an AR-15 style rifle – drove up to the entrance of the Tops Friendly Market located at 1275 Jefferson Street in Buffalo, New York. As the offender exited his vehicle, he immediately shot four persons standing near the entrance, killing three. The streamed video makes the manner of the attack unmistakable. It was without warning and without any provocation. The offender then proceeded into the store, and he continued to intentionally and quickly fire upon individuals one after the next. As wounded victims fell, he continued to fire upon them. The video is horrific viewing.
Among those shot inside the store was a retired police officer, Aaron Salter Jr. The retired police officer was working as store security. Salter ran towards the attack and then exchanged gunfire with the offender before being fatally wounded. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia stated that Slater’s actions likely saved others, and he said that Salter is a “hero in our eyes.” In total, the offender shot 13 people, killing ten. As on-duty Buffalo police officers arrived on scene, the offender put his rifle to his own throat and threatened suicide. In response to police deescalation efforts, the offender subsequently surrendered and was taken into custody.
Buffalo police and court records have identified Payton Gendron as the market shooter. Gendron lives in Conklin, New York, which is more than a three-hours drive from the location of his attack, and there is no suggestion that he knew any of his victims. Even as the pretrial release of violent offenders is an increasingly contentious issue in New York State, later Saturday evening, Gendron was ordered held without bail by Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah.
Behind the Evil:
In June 2021, Gendron had been previously taken into custody briefly for a mental health evaluation following a “general threat” when he was 17 years old. The investigative process is ongoing, but early reports and court presentations strongly indicate that the Buffalo shooting was a deliberate, planned attack, and the store in a predominately Black area of the city was specifically targeted seeking to further a hate-crime agenda. According to the New York Post, Gendron, who is white, had posted a “180-page diatribe,” in which he described himself as a white supremacist and an anti-Semite. According to police, eleven of the victims in the Buffalo attack were Black and two were white. Four of the shooting victims were store employees, including the retired police officer, and nine were customers. Murdered in an act of deliberate evil were:
- Celestine Chaney, age 65 of Buffalo, NY.
- Roberta A. Drury, age 32 of Buffalo, NY.
- Andre Mackneil, age 53 of Auburn, NY.
- Katherine Massey, age 72 of Buffalo, NY.
- Margus D. Morrison, age 52 of Buffalo, NY.
- Heyward Patterson, age 67 of Buffalo, NY.
- Aaron Salter, age 55 of Lockport, NY.
- Geraldine Talley, age 62 of Buffalo, NY.
- Pearl Young, age 77 of Buffalo, NY.
- Ruth Whitfield, age 86 of Buffalo, NY.
Back When Sports United a Community
1968 was a year that saw the nation’s worst rioting in many cities across America following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. But in Detroit, 1968 showed something different. Rioting had come a year earlier in Detroit and in several other cities. In 1967, Detroit experienced five-days of rioting that left 1,400 buildings burned, nearly 350 people injured, and 43 people dead.
In 1968 Detroit, a city still reeling from the violence of 1967 hoped for better, and baseball’s Detroit Tigers helped to bring a community together – reducing the tensions that led to the violence of the summer before. As noted by writer Richard Bak, in his 2018 retrospective article on the 1968 Tigers’ World Series Win: “Fifty years on, simply uttering the words ‘the ’68 Tigers’ to people of a certain age can trigger a stream of random images, all pleasant.”
In a normal rational world, there is only one reason for there to be an association between violence in the community and a professional sport. Back before the politics of division invaded all aspects of public life – sports often provided opportunities for people of different backgrounds of economic status, political views, and ethnicity to sing the national anthem together and unite together – for their local sports team, and one nation under God. Such is the lesson of the 1968 Detroit Tigers – for those who still care. Tigers left fielder Willie Horton captured the sentiments of his 1968 teammates: “I believe the ’68 Tigers were put here by God to heal this city.”
Downtown Milwaukee Violence
To be fair, the violence in downtown Milwaukee last Saturday night had nothing to do with the Milwaukee Bucks. But being fair is also not a full exoneration. Few professional athletes today would express the sentiments of healing expressed in 1968 by baseball champion Willie Horton. To the contrary, some of today’s professional athletes, including NBA star Lebron James, have at times helped to stoke divisions, particularly between the police and the communities they serve. On this past Saturday, Milwaukee lost twice. The Boston Celtics won on the basketball court, eliminating the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks from the playoffs, and outside the arena, in the city’s entertainment district, lawlessness won.
With the phrase “entertainment district,” and the lawlessness witnessed in Milwaukee’s entertainment district, the convicting line from the film Gladiator comes to mind. In ancient Roman, crowds were entertained by the sight of gladiators compelled to fight to the death in sports arenas. In the film, Russell Crowe portrays, “Maximus,” a popular Roman general who is sent into slavery by a jealous emperor. Enslaved Maximus becomes a gladiator. Following a deadly fight in the arena, in disgust Maximus calls to the emperor and the crowd asking: “Are you not entertained?”
Is it time to begin asking such a question in Milwaukee and in other cities? On the streets outside the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, gunmen Saturday night engaged in exchanges of potentially deadly gunfire. In total, 21 people were shot in three separate shooting incidents.
Milwaukee Entertainment Area Shootings Summary:
According to Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) Deputy Chief Nicole Walder, the first shooting occurred at 9:10 pm on 14 May 2022 at 1105 N. Martin Luther King Drive, about one block from the Fiserv Forum. There were three shooting victims in that incident and police had one person of interest in custody and recovered one firearm. The second shooting occurred around 10:30 pm at 1102 N. Water Street, which is about 3 blocks from the arena. One person was shot, and MPD initiated an “all city assist” to stream more officers into the area. While police officers were on the scene of the second incident, the third – and worst – shooting occurred. The third incident occurred at 11:09 pm, just down the block from the second incident, at 1154 N. Water Street. Police officers reported bullets “whizzing” past them and immediately engaged two groups that were exchanging gunfire. 17 people were shot in the third incident, including five who were armed and taken into custody. In total, police made ten arrests and recovered nine firearms.
In the video clip above (at about the 9:40 mark) a reporter asked Deputy Chief Walder to comment on how the third (and most extensive) shooting incident occurred given there was a heavy police presence already on scene. The reporter ended with the following question: “What does this say about respect for law enforcement?” The Deputy Chief responded: “I think this goes further than respect for law enforcement. I think it goes toward respecting human life.” She added: “What makes people think that they can just have a shootout on a public street in our entertainment district; whether the police are there or not.” Perhaps Maximus would have a response.
Downtown Chicago Violence
In January, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago declared 2022 a “make-or-break” year relative to lowering violence. In 2021, the city lost the macabre Chicago 800, with a stunning 801 murders during the year. The full-year 2021 murder count was higher than the 2020 count of 774, and up an astonishing 61% from the 498 murders in Chicago during 2019. While as of last week murders across Chicago so far this year were down 6% from last year, at 194 they remained up 12% year-to-date from the 173 in 2020 and up 25% from the 155 in 2019.
Over this past weekend in Chicago, from Friday evening through Sunday (13-15 May 2022) 33 people were shot, five fatally. Three people were shot downtown, in three separate incidents on Saturday night. Of particular note was the murder of 16-year-old Seandell Holliday. The teen was killed at a major downtown Chicago tourist attraction. Bands of teens and young adults had once again gathered downtown, where large numbers engaged in rowdy behavior and many engaged in open violence.
On Sunday, Mayor Lightfoot ordered that teens would no longer be allowed in Millennium Park after 6:00 pm, from Thursday through Sunday, without a “responsible adult.” The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union objected to the ban. The mayor also ordered a lowering of the citywide weekend curfew for teens 17 and under to 10:00 pm from 11:00 pm. The Chicago Teacher’s Union objected to the curfew changes. Secure 1776 wants more information on the “responsible adults.” We wonder which Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago elected and public officials qualify – and how they meet the definition. Some may be more “responsible” for the underlying public safety concerns in the city than they are fit to escort teens in Chicago’s downtown Millennium Park.
Initial Aftermath and Charges in the Murder:
In the aftermath of the three downtown shootings on Saturday night, police recovered eight firearms and arrested five adults and 26 juveniles. A 17-year-old juvenile has also been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated unlawful use of a loaded weapon and aggravated battery involving use of a laser device on a firearm in connection with the murder of Seandell Holliday. The teen has been charged as an adult and identified as Marion Richardson. Video shows Richardson engaged in an altercation with Holliday “just before a gunshot is heard.” Holliday was shot in the chest around 7:30 pm, and he was pronounced dead a short time later at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Richardson had a semi-automatic pistol in his possession when he was arrested. Both teens were in Millennium Park during a large disturbance leading up to the shooting.
Such behavior has become a recurring issue in downtown Chicago. Just three days earlier, more than 400 teens took over a Lake Michigan beach and swarmed several streets in the downtown area. Social media showed many clips of groups jumping on vehicles and engaging in fights. The general lawlessness is concerning. Lawless places become violent places, and downtown gun violence has been on the rise. On Saturday, April 30 into Sunday, 1 May 2022, three separate downtown shootings left two people dead.
Through just April of this year, 19 people had been shot in downtown Chicago, encompassing the Loop (central business) and Near North (entertainment) areas. Up significantly when compared with the eight through April in 2021.
“If I make it to 21” – More on the Teen Murdered:
Sixteen-year-old Seandell Holliday had been a participant in an anti-violence mentoring program at his South Side Chicago high school. As part of that program he was required to prepare a list of goals. He began that list with a telling statement: “If I make it to 21.” He is reported as explaining to his teacher that he included the “if statement,” because many Chicago youth die at early ages. Lawlessness and evil are at the root of that painful reality.
When the Man Comes Around
We pass along this advice, passed down through the ages from the greatest selling book in all of world history: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 – The Bible, ESV).
There is evil in this world, we can see it vividly when we look at the violence thrust onto the innocent shopping and working on a Saturday in May at a Buffalo supermarket. But, evil comes on a continuum that begins with lesser expressions of cruelty. We can see those as well in just looking at the lawless behavior in the downtown areas of Milwaukee and Chicago this past weekend. If we dare to look beyond the tourist areas of our cities – the evil that men (and women – and teens of both genders) do is often even more severe.
World history and experience has shown how regular people can be pulled into the “schemes of the devil.” Let us not forget that just last year the shooter in Buffalo was a juvenile. The shooter in Chicago was a juvenile, and many juveniles were present in the lawlessness in Milwaukee. Where are the responsible adults? Some have been absent from their responsibilities. Others overwhelmed. But unfortunately, some of adults are indeed responsible. Responsible for directly causing evil, doing evil, and encouraging evil. Other adults have condoned evil and ignored evil for personal profit and even political purposes.
One day there will be a Man coming around taking names. Forgive us Lord.
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