The things nice people do!

I see that a sickening Philadelphia story involving the apparently random, near fatal beating of a Haitian immigrant has reached the attention of Drudge, who links to this Breitbart report. The facts are appalling enough simply because of the cavalier nature of what was done:

A Drexel University engineering graduate student told police he was attacked Friday afternoon by four young men who beat him and tried to throw him in front of a moving car, authorities said. The 30-year-old victim was treated for a dislocated jaw.

The suspects, walking around after a scheduled half-day of school, videotaped themselves before the attack as they discussed how they were going to assault a random victim, then took turns holding the camera during the beating, said police Lt. John Walker.

"They were talking about (how) it was an early day (from school), the weather was nice, and what they were going to do," Walker said. "In the beginning, it's almost like a documentary."

"Just pick somebody out, anybody out," one student said to another on the video, according to Walker. He said there were about two minutes of taping before the assault.

Police identified one of the suspects arrested Monday as Tyrez Osbourne, 18. The other, ages 17 and 16, were not identified because of their ages. After their arrests, all four were expelled from University City High School, district officials said.

The Inquirer version reads differently, adding details about the victim's Haitian identity, and a discussion of whether this attack (which the police describe as "mind boggling") was a hate crime:
Four University City High School students have been arrested on charges of randomly beating and nearly killing a Drexel University graduate student by shoving him into traffic in West Philadelphia - all the while videotaping the attack, police said yesterday.

"It's a very disturbing film," said Lt. John F. Walker of Southwest Detectives' Special Investigation Unit. "It's just mind-boggling."

The 30-year-old engineering student, a Haitian immigrant whose name was not released, was assaulted on 36th Street just south of Spring Garden Street at 1:10 p.m. Friday as he was walking northbound to his nearby apartment, Walker said at a news conference.

The victim wants to leave Philadelphia and return home to Haiti, Walker said. "He's very fearful of his life and of living in that area," he said.

The victim asked police not to release his name out of fear for his safety, said Capt. Benjamin Naish, a police spokesman. Police say they do not believe the attack was a hate crime.

If the facts are as stated and the victim was singled out at random, I don't see how could it legally be a hate crime. For starters, where's the hate? It would be as if a sniper just started shooting at whomever came along. (Well, no it wouldn't be. Because snipers use guns, and we all know that guns are the actual cause of shootings.)

What I find most appalling about this story is something that I keep seeing in reports involving horrendous crimes -- recitals that the accused criminals are actually good people. Breitbart quotes the mother of one of the accused:

Osbourne's mother said he was an innocent bystander who happened to be nearby and caught on tape.

"He ain't that kind of guy," she told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Yes, she did tell the Inquirer that, and I suppose it's something that a mother would be expected to say.

But the Inquirer also quotes teachers who say pretty much the same thing:

Jeffrey Rosenberg, a health and physical education teacher at University City High and the teachers' union representative in the building, said one of those arrested was a student in his class.

He said he was stunned by the news.

"You meet these kids. You have a good rapport with them in classes. It just makes you wonder: How much do we really know them?" he said. "It's very disturbing, very upsetting."

I don't know how to react to this. Should I take Mr. Rosenberg at his word that he had a "good rapport" with "these kids"? I mean, assume that he was scared to death of them. Would he tell the Inquirer that?

The football coach of these is quoted as being "stunned" by the fact that a "nice young man" would do something like this:

Ken Gritter, University City High's assistant basketball coach, said word of the arrests had already spread among basketball players yesterday when he heard about them from a reporter.

"I would not have expected that of him," Gritter said of the player he was told was involved. "He's a very nice young man. Stunned is the only word that comes to mind."

I'm wondering if we'll ever know why nice people behave like criminals.

Fortunately for law abiding firearms owners, there weren't any guns involved. (The word "children" seems to be reserved for occasions when a teenager gets shot.)

Still, there's the lingering question of what would make nice people go out and do something like this.

To make a video?

Video. That must be it.

I blame violent videos for video violence. Plus the easy availability and low cost of video equipment.

posted by Eric on 01.24.06 at 01:07 PM


It was adolescence. Adolescence caused the violence.

Or, rather, the lack of insight and foresight attendent upon adolescence coupled with the every present testosterone intoxication found in most any teenaged boy.

In short, you are dealing with children. Bloody irresponsible children. We proceed under the assumption that teens can be left to their own devices, when practical experience shows we need to keep them occupied. Gainfully employed as it were. You have to keep them too busy to get into trouble.

And this includes children 18-24, for they too lack the maturity found in adults. Even a college grad needs to be supervised 24/7, for even he tends to be impulsive and irresponsible without adult oversight.

A paradigm shift in how we see late adolescencts and pre-adults is long overdue.

Alan Kellogg   ·  January 24, 2006 6:55 PM

I would disagree that 18-24 year olds are inherently immature; I rather think it is the result of prolonged adolescence. Little more than a century ago, sixteen and seventeen year olds were given adult resposibilities and expected to act like adults and *gasp* they actually did. While they may have had a lot of emotional development left to do, they were expected to live up to the consequences of their actions.

We now have a culture in which a certain level of irresponsibility and immaturity is expected in ADULTS, and then are surprised when those who are not yet considered adult behave in an irresponsible manner. Quelle suprise, they don't handle boredom well.

Don't "keep them busy," give them responsibilities and make sure they live up to them. (If you've been preparing them for adult life all of their lives, they will be capable of handling responsibilities... well, RESPONSIBLY.)

B. Durbin   ·  January 24, 2006 10:29 PM

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