From mourners to suspects overnight. Who knew?

Yesterday I marveled over the inability of the Philadelphia Inquirer to make any mention of suspects in huge front page story, headlined "Woman dies while trying to help children -- Another family is left to mourn."

There's even a picture of mourners:


Which has this accompanying caption:

Rashiek High (left), whose wife was killed Sunday, gets a hug from a friend outside his house on Pentridge Street in Southwest Phila. Jovonne Stelly was shot in broad daylight when she was caught in a gun battle that erupted on her Kingsessing street.
My reaction to this was to wonder why the Inquirer was so quick to blame the guns used in the shooting, without so much as a mention of, simply, who did it:
There's no question that this death was tragic, but what I want to know is why there has been no discussion of the shooters. Were any arrests made? Why not? Considering all the discussion, speculation, and outright mischaracterization of firearms, and the use of the word "slaughter," why is it that nowhere (in any of the articles I've seen) do the words "suspect" or "arrest" occur? And why is it that no reward has been offered?

You'd almost think the guns were the only suspects. Or is there some rule of which I'm unaware that murders committed in the course of family feuds are the fault of the guns?

Were the Hatfields and the McCoys an argument for gun control?

Who knew?

Unless you'd read yesterday's article like a detective (and scoured previous stories, as I did), you'd have been hard pressed to discern that this was a family feud. (Much less that the mourner in the photo would be arrested the next day as a suspect.)

But today, the headline is "Brother; husband arrested in death," and the article begins with talk of "the code of the street":

It's the code of the street: Don't snitch. Dummy up.

"It's not good for me to talk," said a man who declined to give his name as he cleaned up a car damaged by gunfire on the Kingsessing street where Jovonne Stelly, 28, was killed Sunday.

Police yesterday charged two men with her murder - her husband, Rashiek High, 26, and her brother Michael Stelly, 27, both of whom lived with her on the 5800 block of Pentridge Street.

OK, two of the shooters lived with her, and one was her husband? But yesterday he was pictured as a mourner, a victim?

My, the news changes fast around here.

But there still seems to be a movement to make the guns somehow the culprit. Local activists are not happy about the arrests, because the real enemy is, is, well, "the bullets they were dodging." Therefore, a protest march is planned:

The slaying, resulting from a gunfight in which dozens of bullets were fired, was likely the result of a long-simmering dispute.

Detectives also issued an arrest warrant for a third suspect, Keith Devine, 26.

Stelly, a mother of four, died of a shot to the head.

Three alleged killers. One killing shot.

Sgt. Ronald McClane, a detective on the case, said that the ballistic analysis of the slug that killed Stelly was incomplete, and that investigators had not identified the triggerman.

But the principle behind multiple arrests for a single murder is simple, he said: Fire a weapon while committing a felony and face maximum charges if that action contributes to a death.

"The city, the department, the public in general is fed up" with homicides, McClane said. "If you're out there shooting, the D.A.'s Office will come down on you. I think that's in everybody's interest."

While some anti-violence activists applaud such action, Stephanie Dixon, an organizer of a march today to commemorate Stelly, said that some members of her family were upset about the arrest.

"It's not right. They had nothing to do with it. They were dodging bullets just like everybody else. . . . Michael [Stelly] was there just trying to save his sister," Dixon said last night.

The victim's four children, Rashiek, 9, Curtise, 7, Jaylah, 3, and Naj, just a few months old, are being cared for by an aunt, Shelley Myric, Dixon said.

The march, scheduled to step off at 5 p.m. today from 58th Street and Willows Avenue, is "for Jovonne Stelly, but it's also for all the other people dying in this city all over. There's too much bloodshed," Dixon said.

Yes, and according to yesterday's article, the politicians (all of whom think guns are the problem) have been invited:
Elected officials and mayoral candidates have been invited, said organizer Stephanie Dixon, who called for citizen action "to stop the madness."
The madness meme was echoed by a police spokesman in today's piece, which has more on the feud, and how it started:
A witness told a reporter Monday that the gun battle, in which up to 40 shots were fired, began when an unspecified number of gunmen emerged from a house and started shooting.

Capt. Michael Costello, commander of the Homicide Unit, said tensions between the two groups involved in the bloody melee, in which four people were wounded, had been building for two weeks and apparently stemmed from a robbery and a subsequent shooting in which no one was hit.

He said that despite Stelly's relationship to the men in custody in her slaying, there was no indication that she was involved in the dispute. She was killed, he said, "trying to remove her children from the line of fire."

Devine's relationship to High and Stelly was not spelled out by police. All three were known to police from previous encounters, officials said.

Costello said at least four guns were fired during the gun battle and police were hunting for others who fired shots.

The feuding factions had engaged in a number of physical confrontations in the last week, including Sunday morning, and from 15 to 20 people gathered on Pentridge Street Sunday afternoon in apparent anticipation of a fistfight, Costello said.

Besides the two groups, children and adults enjoying the good weather also were on the street, he said.

"But at least four to five people brought guns to this fistfight and they didn't think twice about discharging them," Costello said. "It's just insane."

It's about as insane as the Hatfields and the McCoys. (And, um, might it also be that these people are, dare I say it, career criminals?)

The thing is, I don't doubt the "insane" shooters themselves would be welcomed by the marchers, as long as they agreed that the guns caused their "madness."

I think such thinking is at least as insane as the shootings.

posted by Eric on 03.28.07 at 08:01 AM


Civilization is difficult.

Tribalism is easy.

M. Simon   ·  March 28, 2007 8:37 AM

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