EDITORIAL: Must we come to terms with yet another death?

Mar. 19, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

The shooting last week that took the life of 15-year-old Junior Dolby of Sanford proved gun violence in our community isn’t so isolated. You know Lee Countians: we’d prefer to have no violent crime at all, but we're realistic enough to prefer our murders and our violence to be contained, to mourn or seethe with outrage once or twice or three times a year, no more — enough to keep us feeling mostly safe and comfortable and still able to look down our noses at larger cities like Fayetteville or Durham and say, “Hey, at least we're not as bad as YOU.”

But looking down that same nose at what's taken place since the end of last year, it's not a stretch to describe such incidents — Sanford’s new reality — now as “commonplace.”

Care to argue?

Three homicides in December.

A fatal stabbing on March 9.

Dolby’s killing.

Another fatal shooting on Feb. 26.

And the exchange of gunfire between two teenagers and Sanford Police four days earlier, resulting in attempted murder charges being filed against both.

What is going on here?

If you think underemployment, small-scale embezzlement, bad weather, illegal meetings and political infighting constitute bad news, try taking an unparalleled spate of murders and violence out for a spin and see what that does for your vision and values. Well-centered? Sure, you can pinpoint the area's most egregious instances of violence and death since around Christmas and find a preponderance of the red dots inside Lee County, right in the heart of the state map. Worse, who’s to say that Dolby’s death — perhaps the most shaking of those, owing to his youth and the fact it was allegedly caused by a man, Pierre Amerson, who's been convicted of shooting, robbing and threatening before, and wasn't in jail — was the last in this string?

So how do we as a community respond?

Rallies are good; the “Save Our Sons” event on Saturday and the upcoming anti-violence “Call to Duty” rally scheduled for April 26 will draw attention and get people engaged in the problem. Talk in official meetings by elected officials is good; the county and city are making discussions a part of their agendas, and their discussions draw attention and show that we care. And we do care.

But how do we act?

Whatever the root cause (gang-related, drug-related, both, or neither), having your life end at the barrel of a gun isn't a fate anyone deserves. And while it's not a unique problem, it's certainly unique in that it's happening here, on this scale, at this point in time.

It's a community struggle demanding a community response. Talking is good. Dialogue will be constructive. But only action will make a difference.

Blaming, accusing and finger-pointing don't count.

So as we seek to keep the dialogue going, let's each and every one of us remember: if you're not a part of solving this crisis, you're part of the cause.

Whatever your abilities, we challenge you to find a place to get to work.