I should care?

Who was Jason Brewer and why was he shot?

Not to pick a murder victim at random, but the Philly.com web site provides few details about the murders, and I get the impression that the overall tally is more important:

Philadelphia tallied six murders over the weekend, police said, bringing the total for the year to 242.

In addition, two police officers allegedly fatally shot two gun-wielding men in separate incidents under investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

I agree that police shootings are presumed not to be murders. There seems to be a corresponding rule of journalism that all other killings are, and while there's no doubt that most of them are, the bleeding heart liberal in me always worries that somehow, somewhere, in that big evil city of crime, someone might be forced to defend his life (or property), and that might result in a killing which would be other than murder.

Back to Philly.com:

This weekend's six murders:

* 2 a.m. Saturday - 15-year-old Raheem Grant was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head on Callowhill Street near 63rd, in the Overbrook section.

* 4:46 a.m. Saturday - Jason Brewer, 25, was shot multiple times near 18th Street and Girard Avenue, in North Philadelphia. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 5 a.m.

If someone is found dead of a gunshot wound, that looks like murder, especially if we assume that the vast majority of shooters and victims have criminal records, which means that by definition they are felonious violators of gun laws.

But should that disincline me to look any further?

Remember, my access to information is solely based on what I am able to glean from the hard copy of my daily Inquirer and online, and my opinions are a result of my textual analysis. (I do not have access to the police blotter, which I'm sure is off limits to lowly bloggers.)

Today's Inquirer has more:

It was a violent weekend in the city, with at least six homicides reported apart from the police shooting, bringing this year's total to 242. They included:


Jason Brewer, 25, of Albanus Street was found shot to death in an apparent robbery in the 1700 block of Harper Street Saturday. Police found Brewer after a companion showed up at St. Joseph's Hospital with a gunshot wound to his ankle and told hospital staff that his friend had also been shot.

Raheem Grant, 15, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in the 6300 block of Callowhill Street after reports of a fight Saturday.

OK, so now we know that the 15 year old had been in a "fight." What kind of fight, we do not know. Was it a gunfight, or a fistfight which ended up with someone pulling a gun? I have a feeling that there'd be more information if it involved the latter, but this is speculation, and as I say, my suspicions are not facts.

But what about the more puzzling case of Jason Brewer? Was he murdered? If he did not live in the 1700 block of Harper, what was he doing there? Was someone trying to rob him? Or was he trying to rob someone else? Was he found lying on the street?

Or are these details meaningless? I think they might matter in determining whether he was a murder victim, or something else.

In an yesterday's version of the story, it was reported that Brewer was found "at a residence."

Police were still investigating the three slayings that occurred yesterday.

At 2:18 a.m., they received a call about a shooting in the 6300 block of Callowhill Street in West Philadelphia, and found Raheem Grant, 15, who lived nearby, dead of a gunshot to the head.

Just after 5 a.m., St. Joseph's Hospital notified police that a patient had walked in with a gunshot wound to an ankle. The patient told police that another victim was at a residence in the 1700 block of Harper Street in North Philadelphia. When police arrived, they found a 25-year-old man dead of multiple gunshots.

OK, if we play detective by piecing the three stories together, the following becomes the factual scenario:
  • Jason Brewer was murdered;
  • in a robbery;
  • at a residence;
  • where he did not live;
  • where his companion was also wounded during the same robbery;
  • As a whodunit, doesn't this just cry out for more detail?

    I'm tempted to say inquiring minds want to know, but that would sound sarcastic and I'm trying to be serious. What I'd really like to know is who are the victims, and who are the perpetrators. For some reason, these things just don't seem to matter in a world divided into good and bad based solely on guns.

    The details don't seem to matter, and I'm left looking at a map of the 1700 block of Harper wondering whose residence might have been involved. Who lived there? Was anyone home? Why no arrests for what is being called a murder? Who might have been robbing whom? As I think about these things which I will probably never know, I'm ever mindful of the numerous admonitions in the Inquirer about how people like me who live in the suburbs just don't care about what goes on in the city. Here's Monica Yant Kinney:

    Whenever I write about Philadelphia's homicide crisis, I hear from suburban readers who think it's a waste of space.

    Poor black people killing poor black people, thugs shooting thugs - why should we cry?

    With alarming regularity, folks living outside the city suggest they'd rather ignore the horrors inside it.

    I keep saying I care, because I really do. But there's that wanting to know part, which is also part of caring.

    And the way these things are reported makes me wonder how much the Inquirer cares beyond the tally and the narrative of the evil gun.

    UPDATE (07/31/07): Today's Daily News has more on Raheem Grant's shooting. Police say they believe it was "retaliatory" -- and neighbors are afraid to talk to reporters:

    In Overbrook yesterday, the news that Raheem Grant may have been killed as retaliation caused little shock in a busy neighborhood where many people work during the day.

    "It's really crazy," said a woman, who called herself a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.

    "There was an explosion a week ago, and there's shootings all the time," she said.

    The woman, who did not want to be identified, paused near the multicolored makeshift memorial at 63rd and Callowhill bearing Raheem's picture, candles and teddy bears.

    Other neighbors agreed that the neighborhood had gone from bad to worse.

    They blamed groups of youths for much of the trouble.

    "What was he doing out so late?" pondered Jason Miller, a resident of nearby Felton Street.

    "I don't know the situation, but why would a 15-year-old be out past midnight?"

    Hanging out late at night shouldn't be a thing for young folks, agreed neighbor Roberta Jenkins.

    "The neighborhood is pretty bad . . . ," she said.

    "Someone I know just got shot two weeks ago. I'm trying to move."

    Darnell Washington, who also lives in the area, said it was hard to believe that Raheem could have been shot over a misunderstanding or an argument.

    "He was real cool . . . ," said Washington. "Shot in the head? That's crazy. Who deserves that?"

    Many passers-by stopped to check out the memorial to Raheem. But in a city gripped by a "don't snitch" mantra, not many would say anything about the shooting.

    One woman said she knew Raheem, but hurriedly walked away when approached by a reporter.

    "I'm sorry," she said, as she walked down 63rd Street.

    "I'm sorry, I'm not going to say anything."

    Today's Inquirer has pictures from a vigil for Grant, and a headline reading "Honoring a Slain Teenager," but it's not online.

    Who was "retaliating" against this teenager at 2:00 a.m. -- and why -- these are things that we who "do not care" will probably never be told.

    (That's because we'd "rather ignore the horrors," of course.)

    Is there any way to get these people to at least stop scolding me for ignoring what they're not providing?

    Seriously, this "you don't care" meme really rankles me, because I suspect that the people who say that are more opposed to seeing the actual perpetrators of these awful crimes punished than I am.

    It's as if "you don't care" means "you don't agree with my position on gun control!"

    MORE: Not only I do care about Raheem Grant enough to want his killers caught and punished, but I cared enough to photograph the Inquirer's photo of the Grant vigil for the readers of this blog.

    Grant_Vigil_3.jpg Why it appears in the hard copy but not on online, I don't know. The photos are by April Saul, who has been chronicling Philadelphia's many teen shooting deaths in a piece called Kids, Guns, and a Deadly Toll. Ms. Saul explains "why she decided to tell these stories" and at no point does she express even the slightest desire to see the killers caught and punished.

    I don't think this means she does not care. Obviously, she cares very much, but in a different way than the way I care. If I had a teenager who had been murdered, I'd want the perpetrators caught and punished, not just for personal reasons, but because I think putting away murderous people is in the ultimate best interest of civilization. April Saul, by saying she would "not try to distinguish between the 'guilty' and the 'innocent,'" in my view is subordinating the distinction between murderer and victim to a narrative which blames the tools used by murderers.

    Obviously, I disagree. But what really galls me is this notion that because I disagree over how to address a problem, I don't care about it.

    posted by Eric on 07.30.07 at 09:13 AM


    Just read the article by Kinney, and I tend to agree: as much as anything she seems interested in numbers, the 'evil guns' and- gotta have it, you know- white people not caring about black people dying.

    Firehand   ·  July 30, 2007 10:08 AM

    Shooting incidents are always reported badly. We had a shooting recently that was nearly a gun-grabber's wet dream: Guys get into a fight which is broken up by a bouncer, one runs off and grabs a shotgun, then blows away an innocent bystander.

    Took a few days to find out he was a felon to begin with. Where did he get the gun from, I wonder?

    urthshu   ·  July 30, 2007 7:33 PM

    Why was a 25-year-old man associating with a 15-year-old?

    G. Weightman   ·  July 30, 2007 8:14 PM

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