In a college town like Athens, the words “last call” are usually connected to closing time. This past week we were reminded of a much more important & exponentially sadder connotation.
On Sunday, over 2,000 people attended the funeral for Athens-Clarke County Senior Police Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian, who was killed in the line of duty on Tuesday. Senior Police Office Tony Howard remains hospitalized & is recovering from wounds sustained in the same incident.
I’d have written about this sooner but once again I found words failing me. What can you say that even begins to scratch the surface of something like this? Beyond the intense desire to see the killer taken off the streets as the days of the manhunt rolled on, even now I’m left with a hodgepodge of thoughts & emotions that seem impossible to fully organize.
Obviously the loss to his family, friends, co-workers is something that most of us can only try to comprehend. There’s been an outpouring of support for them from near & far, I can only hope that it will continue as the immediacy of the tragedy begins to fade.
The made-for-TV arrest of the suspect was certainly a spectacle. Part of me would like to find fault with the media involved but rationally I can’t do that. By all indications, their involvement was not of their own making & I find nothing improper about their participation in a drama being scripted by a villain who left them little choice but to cooperate.
There’s a good bit I’ve found to be less than satisfactory about living in Athens-Clarke County since we arrived over five years ago. It often feels like being stuck in the Berkeley of the South, a political cesspool of Blue lacking decent judgment or common sense in a largely Red state. Almost oddly though, law enforcement has never really been one of those things I found lacking. They operate in a rather odd environment but they’ve typically struck me as meeting their obligations to a surprisingly high degree. I occasionally wish they took a sterner hand but on the whole, I’m probably more comfortable with the caliber of law enforcement I’ve seen here than anywhere I’ve ever lived.
I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t disappointed that the killer’s flight ended with him complaining about the handcuffs being too tight rather than with him dispatched with finality. If that’s an imperfect reaction to this, so be it. It’s the God’s honest truth & while I’m not particularly bragging about it I’m not inclined to lie about it either. I begrudge the fact that this sorry piece of shit consumes the same oxygen the rest of us do.
I’m was quite amazed to learn that it had been 75 years since an Athens police officer had been killed in the line of duty. Thankful, but amazed. That’s what is really lingering with me today. I find myself so surprised by the rarity of this because of the other things I’ve seen in the past week.
I’ve watched the local media not-so-subtly try to paint the killer as some sort of victim. Misleading headlines like “Suspect Served 12 years for $3 theft” are downright obscene. No, he served 12 years for sticking a gun in the face of a pizza delivery guy … who happened to throw $3 on the ground as he fled with his life. What would our local fishwrap suggest, that we punish violent criminals on the basis of their relative success or failure? Brilliant plan, we’ll make it easier on the ones who just aren’t very good at it, give them more opportunities to improve their skill. Incidentally, if you follow the link today you’ll find a different headline but the original one remains on the story if you search their archives. I guess they figured out which way the wind was actually blowing & decided to make a change but that’s a day late & a dollar short as far as I’m concerned. It spoke volumes about the mindset of those at what passes for a newspaper in Athens, no surprise to regular readers however.
We’ve also been told ad nauseam how this assassin feared for his life at the hands of police because his brother was shot & killed by an officer back in 2001. What hasn’t been adequately described is why police shot him. You see, Timothy Hood pulled a gun, placed it to the head of the officer, and pulled the trigger. That gun jammed, the officer’s gun didn’t. Sorry, but that’s not a situation where you give the perpetrator a pat on the head & a cookie … nor another chance.
We’ve also been told by the murderer’s parent how “we’re Christian people” and that their son should turn himself in. At the same time however, we hear from the mother how “It brings back what they did to my son. Clarke County shot him, and we still don’t know what happened.” Ah yes, the culture of victimization, did we really expect that not to make an appearance? I’ll say here what I’d gladly say to her: “They” didn’t do anything to your son that he didn’t bring upon himself. Good riddance, the world is at least fractionally better off without him in it. Indeed, it appears that the notion of criminal as victim may well have played a role in the current attack, as according to one of the so-called “hostages” “Law enforcement killed his brother back in the day, and he said he just wanted them to see how it felt to lose one,”
Almost naturally, the victim culture that we’ve cultivated over the past few decades has also produced “fans” for the latest criminal. I won’t dignify it with a link but there’s a fan page for the latest cop-killer on Facebook. Yes, you read that right. He’s a celebrity now, complete with fans supporting his crime. Granted, there’s also a page protesting the fan page & that’s encouraging although it doesn’t take away from the disturbing notion that we’ve slipped so far into the abyss that such a page would have been created in the first place.
That culture is the same one that breeds bacteria like those who helped the killer during his attempted flight. That left no shortage of willing volunteers to form a human shield around him & delay his apprehension. While we’re better off with him off the streets, it remains disturbing that these scum will still be walking the streets among the rest of us. That is, of course, unless authorities can find a way to charge them, which seems like a faint hope at this point but it’s one of the few optimistic things I can find to consider right now. Maybe further investigation can turn up something involving the substance behind his cocaine-fueled negotiations. Again, you read that right. Turns out he was sky high while talking to police on Friday. I figure he had to get the coke from somewhere, might not have to look too far to find the source.
Right about now I’m expect that the “you’re just being racist” charges are being primed & readied. I don’t give the slightest damn whether those enabling & outright supporting this vermin are black, white, blue, green or have little purple polka dots. My condemnation for their words & actions is most definitely equal opportunity. Indeed, the problem certainly doesn’t seem to be limited to any specific race, at least not the core problem that my thoughts keep coming back to this morning.
It’s hard for me not to think about something incredibly more mundane that’s caught my eye in the past few weeks. Among my son’s peers, there are a few kids who have (more than a little awkwardly) been trying to adopt gang-oriented slang into their repertoire. It’s the height of absurdity really, 12 and 13 year old wannabes mimicking what they’ve heard … never mind that these poor culturally confused whelps would have their livers merrily eaten with a bag of Cheetos & a 40-ounce by the thugs they’re trying to sound like. Somehow though, despite those adolescents being fairly counted among the more privileged members of society, it’s somehow cool to them to try to look & speak like common criminals, just beyond my comprehension how that happens but it does.
I believe it’s really nothing more than a very minor symptom of how we’ve slipped as a society. How we’ve failed to make it clear that we will not accept unacceptable behavior, that we refuse to tolerate the intolerable. It takes me back to why it was with considerable regret I watched a surrender & capture scenario play out instead of a much more satisfying shot to his repeat offender head. The future for this brazen killer likely rests in the hands of a jury composed of 12 people, hopefully you’ll understand why I’m not supremely confident that we won’t manage to include at least one of the same morally bankrupt crowd in that dozen.
I mourn at the Final Call for SPO Christian, please let nothing so far afield I’ve pondered here leave any doubt about that. I’m encouraged by the response of the community at large to this tragedy. Still, I come away worried that the final call for the U.S. as even a reasonable facsimile of a civilized society isn’t all that far behind, or at least won’t be unless we increase our efforts & willingness to make very clear what we refuse to tolerate.