A Personal Reaction

The news is going around. The police have made an arrest in the John Henderson case, and it all turns out to be part of a larger, sprawling story involving gunfights and men in hiding, according to the AJC. It’s a story with a lot of bullets.

With thanks to the Atlantans Together Against Crime (ATAC) blog, here’s a link to Raw Footage Atlanta Police Department May 8, 2009 Press Conference from Grayson Daughters on Vimeo.

Since I wrote a bit about the public reaction to the Standard shooting, I figured I should write something about the public reaction to this news, too. I’ve read comments of relief and comments of revenge. I’ve read lamentations about teenage shooters and I’ve read calls for blood.

Here’s the truth: I don’t know what to say.

When I tried to write about this from the perspective of a compassionate neighbor, I fell into the traps bystanders often fall into when talking about crime — all melodramatic and grandiose. When I tried to write about this from the perspective of a rational, detached neighbor, I found myself reaching conclusions that offer little comfort — cynical and sad.

What I’m left with is a mix of feelings that combines, one, a emotional, humanist desire to find a big-picture revelation in this specific story and, two,  a practical desire to recognize, both personally and as a community, that there is no one person that can be jailed that will change much. It’s The West Wing versus The Wire, for me.

So I’ve cut a lot of what I wrote here, because it’s all secondary to this: This arrest isn’t an ending. Police and lawyers and bartenders and housebreakers are all still going to work. The days keep coming.

9 Comments so far

  1. bking on May 9th, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    Perhaps because I don’t live in Grant Park anymore, but this particular crime didn’t really get me super worked up. Murders and crimes happen in this city all the time, and one either happening or getting somewhat resolved doesn’t do much to change that. I had kind of assumed the APD wasn’t going to find anyone (I have that much faith in the department).

    I’m a pretty firm believer that big events shouldn’t be the basis for policy change – knowledge of what happened can change (as this event showed, initial reports were almost 100% inaccurate), you get too caught up in specifics of an incident, and you can miss the big picture. Or, if a particular incident gets resolved, the larger movement can lose momentum.

    Rising crime has been an issue in this town for years, and arresting someone for this murder doesn’t really change that very much. I mean, it is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. Maybe I’m just too much of the Wire and not enough West Wing this morning.


  2. rashid on May 9th, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    I found this snippet from the AJC article very interesting.

    "The guns used in the Henderson killing were a 9mm Smith & Wesson stolen from a construction worker’s vehicle in Atlanta in October and a 9mm Glock owned by Ashley Elder, another bartender at Standard the night of the killing. Police are still looking for Elder’s gun.

    Police say Henderson, 27, was shot once in the head and twice in the leg. They did not disclose which gun fired the fatal shot."

    This seems to imply the other bartender was armed and that the gun was taken and perhaps even used to commit the murder. I’m relatively ambivalent on matters of gun control but I do think that adds an interesting dimension to the "get guns and kill the bastards" line of discussion that arose from this crime.


  3. Roxie (roxie) on May 10th, 2009 @ 7:31 am

    While I am glad the community has come together against crime & that the police have now a suspect in custody, I agree with bking.

    I also have the very nagging feeling that this would not have been such an event, with all this coverage and reaction had the victim been black.


  4. georgepburdell on May 11th, 2009 @ 9:55 am

    @ roxie –
    I don’t know how much the media would care if it was a white vs. black thing, but when one of my neighbors is murdered in cold blood after complying with thug robbers I get pissed.

    Do you think there would be less outrage if a white person committed the crime?
    Your comment is baseless and stupid.


  5. Roxie (roxie) on May 11th, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    I wasn’t referring to a "white vs. black thing". I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that..But you SHOULD be pissed when your neighbor is murdered. That’s besides the point.
    Do you think there would be less outrage if a white person committed the crime?No, I don’t think so. which is exactly why I referred to the victim. My comment is not baseless, nor is it stupid. POCs routinely receive less coverage/attention as victims of violent/crime than do their white counterparts.


  6. georgepburdell on May 12th, 2009 @ 7:42 am

    "POCs routinely receive less coverage/attention as victims of violent/crime than do their white counterparts." I disagree completely – what about the Duke lacrosse team members accused of raping a black lady? Seemed to get quite a bit of attention and turned out to be untrue.

    I guess my point is that this was not a white vs. black thing. This was a very serious and unprovoked attack of a completely innocent young man. If this happened in a neighborhood where good people are routinely murdered for a few hundred dollars, then perhaps there would not have been much media coverage. But it didn’t.


  7. james hervey (jeherv) on May 12th, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

    i keep meaning to post my own reaction to this, but i am not sure what i want to say.

    maybe that is what i want to say.


  8. Roxie (roxie) on May 13th, 2009 @ 6:10 am

    George, this is not about your opinion. This is something studied.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/opinion/12herbert.html?_r=1

    Serious and unprovoked attacks happen in the completely innocent people all of the time. And it should be given attention whether it routine or not. Have you been hearing much of anything of the deaths of 30+ school children going on in Chicago? Where are all the stories of pocs that go missing? Color of the victims matter very much when it comes to the amount of attention a crime is given.


  9. georgepburdell on May 13th, 2009 @ 7:47 am

    This is not the appropriate place for a racial debate. But I will point out that there have been several other stories (murder of truck driver @BP on hill st., drive by of 3 teens in Grant park apt. complex) where the victims have been black. I didn’t hear about these by word of mouth – there was news coverage.

    It’s not always the crime that drives the media attention, it’s the public reaction. In the case of John’s death, because he was so well known in a media savvy community, there was a bunch of media to the reaction of the initial crime. Message boards, community meetings,twitter, facebook etc. all helped raise money to raise to catch these punks. People made the media care.



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