It was a busy Saturday night at the upscale Easton Town Center on the weekend before Valentine’s Day. The place was crowded with shoppers. A dispute among young people apparently started in the Easton Apple Store and spilled outside. And then, a few blocks away, the dispute culminated in bloodshed when a 15-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded.
The wounded boy’s 16-year-old brother was charged with the crime, and when the wounded boy died his brother was charged with murder. The stories of what actually happened aren’t clear or necessarily consistent. Apparently the boys were with a group that encountered another group. There was an argument. When the argument started to escalate, the shooter pulled his gun and fired. One news reports quotes his father as saying the boy intended “to shoot in the air to get the tension away from them,” but someone hit his arm and he fired into the crowd instead. Now, the defense attorney says he has witnesses who say another juvenile also drew a gun and fired.
This is an unnerving story, and not just because I’ve been in the Easton Apple Store on many occasions and have walked past the area where the shooting occurred on a busy weekend night. The story strikes a deeper chord because two fundamental questions are presented. First, how did the 16-year-old get a loaded gun, and did he just carry it around with him as a matter of course? (And if there was another juvenile shooter, as the defense attorney claims, how many kids walking around shopping areas these days are armed to the teeth?) And second, why would this 16-year-old think that firing a gun into the air was an appropriate way “to get the tension away from them”?
We have laws that would not permit a 16-year-old to have and carry a gun, but this boy (and perhaps others) had one, anyway. And he used it in a way that shows an appalling casualness about the potentially lethal consequences of firing a handgun. He will be tried, and the jury will render a verdict on whether he committed murder. But will we ever learn the deeper back stories that really caused this incident?