A Bronx Tale

Almost seven years ago, I wrote a piece for National Review Online called “This is Crazy,” in which I described the aftermath of a fatal shooting in South Los Angeles.  It was one of the thirteen murders committed in L.A. that Labor Day weekend, and one of the hundreds I’ve seen in my long career as a cop, but for some reason it has haunted me more than most of the others.

I’m sorry to admit it, for doing so seems to dishonor the victim’s memory, but now I can’t even recall his name.  If he hadn’t died that afternoon, he’d be about 27 years old today, maybe with a family of his own.  I think back on the day he was killed and on and the faces of his sisters as they rushed to the scene and pressed up against the yellow tape to see his car, and then in that moment to realize it was their own brother’s blood all over the interior.

And I remember the young man’s father, who came to the scene after the sisters and the other relatives, and who stood among them so stoically, with so much dignity, even in the grip of such overwhelming sadness.  As I wrote of him at the time, “Tonight he can only think of the baby boy he held for the first time 20 years ago and worried about every single day since, only to see him come to this.”

I was thinking of that poor young man and his father this week as I read about Shaaliver Douse, the 14-year-old boy shot and killed by an NYPD officer early last Sunday morning.  The New York Times reported that two rookie cops, barely a month out of the police academy, were on foot patrol in the Bronx at about 3 a.m. when they heard gunshots.  Rookies or not, they did what cops are expected to do, which is to run toward the sound of the gunfire.  As the officers ran east on 151st Street, near Courtlandt Avenue, they saw two males running toward them, one apparently chasing the other with a gun.  The officers told him to drop it.  He didn’t, instead firing a shot, either at the person he was chasing or at the officers.  One of the officers fired, hitting the gunman in the jaw and killing him.  And just like that, Shaaliver Douse, at 14, became another statistic, another grim dot on the map.

But how did he come to this?  Surely on the day he was born 14 years ago someone was there to hold him and love him and wish for him all that joy that life might bring.  But that someone was almost surely not his father.  Indeed, in all the press accounts I’ve read on the death of Shaaliver Douse, I’ve found many references to his mother and his aunt (about whom more later), but scarcely any mention of his father.  The New York Times, for example, reports that Shaaliver saw his father often, but the story doesn’t name him or indicate if the reporter made any attempt to find him.