Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Every Murder Victim Has A Story: Deangelo Ervin Bowman and Antonio Lorenzo Robertson

Homicides are among the most serious social issues in the United States. These crimes disproportionately impact poor persons, men and persons of color. Black men, often situated at the intersection of these statuses, are the population most deeply impacted by homicide in the US. Indeed, as many studies indicate, the high rate of homicide among black men is one of the leading factors that contributes to the gap between the life expectancy of whites and blacks.

Despite the seriousness of homicide in American cities, media outlets often treat murders of black men and other persons of color as routine and unremarkable events. Typically, media coverage of these homicides consists of tiny blurbs in the local news section; more tellingly, the stories are often just minimally edited versions of police press releases.

Deangelo Ervin Bowman and Antonio Lorenzo Robertson


Deangelo Bowman and Antonio Robertson

Consider the case of Deangelo Ervin Bowman and Antonio Lorenzo Robertson. On September 29, 2010, Bowman and Robertson were fatally shot in a SE neighborhood of Washington, DC. The Washington Post covered the brutal murder:
D.C. police are investigating the fatal shooting of two men found Wednesday night in the 3500 block of 22nd Street SE.

Lorenzo Robertson, 29, was found dead at the scene shortly after 10 p.m. after officers responded to a report of two people shot at the location, D.C. police said. Deangelo Bowman, 21, of Southwest Washington, was unconscious and died after being taken to a nearby hospital.
The above passage represents the entirety of the Washington Post coverage of this double-homicide. The remainder of the article is simply boilerplate that asks anyone with information to call a police hotline. Many other homicide cases receive similar treatment by the Washington Post and other local media.

In contrast to the high volume of national and local attention devoted to murders like the Chandra Levy case, the Washington Post reduces Robertson and Bowman to a few sentences without any discussion of their lives or the impact of the murder on their families, friends and community.

Social Networking Partially Fills The Media Void
Although media coverage of homicides in poor communities often treats these events as unremarkable, social media, such as Facebook, can fill the media void by providing some insight into the victims' lives and the impact of their deaths upon friends and family.

Bowman's Facebook page, for example, chronicles the events immediately preceding his death (I could not locate any online information regarding Robertson). In a passage that sounds ominous after the fact of his death, Bowman posts the following message at 9:38am the day of his murder: "GM FB Fam, up this morning wondering what is in store for today! got to get out of this house! LOL"

Bowman, nicknamed "Scoobz," then apologizes to a "cuzin" for some undisclosed conflict. He also spends time "trippin" with a friend.

At 7:20pm, Bowman announces to his friends that he is about to get his hair styled "in a couple of cornrows," although he "wanted some fishtails." Finally, at 8:12pm, Bowman proudly announces that his hair was "done" and the he was "ready to do something!" Those words were his last on Facebook. Bowman was dead two hours later. What transpired between his last posting and his murder remains a mystery.

Earlier posts indicate that Bowman had a sense of humor, that he -- like many other young persons -- often aired conflicts and grievances with friends and family openly on Facebook, and that he was struggling to find work in a failing economy. Bowman had also recently moved to Washington, DC from North Carolina, although it appears that he had previously lived in the Washington area.

Bowman's Friends and Family Respond
The day following Bowman's murder, friends began to respond. I have posted some of the unedited responses below.

One person said that:
This really hurts, idk wht to feel..........It hurts even more to know that he was a good, nice, funny, sweet,person and someone took his life away. Once our friend, brother, son, cousin, here on earth and now an Angel in heaven. May your soul rest in peace DeAngelo Scoobz Bowman. WE ♥ YOU&&MISS YU DEARLY SCOOBY.
Another individual encouraged people to:
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT YOU HAVE WITH YOU FRIEND, LOVED ONE...OR WHOEVER CUZ I JUSS WITNESSED SOME ONE BEING HERE TODAY.. AND GONE TOMORROW ONCE AGAIN!!!! R.I.P DeAngelo Scoobz Bowman!!!!
Another friend posted a similar response:
cherish the ppl who come in nd out of ur lyfe ; yu may never kno when one day they wont be there anymore..i still cant see or believe it tht ur gone....ima miss yu nd i love yu...may yu 4ever REST IN PARADISE DeAngelo Scoobz Bowman.
Although these Facebook posts cannot replace serious journalistic attention to the harms caused by homicides, they can fill some of the void left by scant media attention to the emotional impact of homicides in communities of color. Furthermore, while this blog alone cannot alter the content of media reporting, by telling the stories behind the lives of neglected murder victims, I hope to construct a counter-narrative that treats their lives and deaths as newsworthy and that begins to examine the complex social and emotional harms associated with violence.

Note: This article is part of a Dissenting Justice series "Every Murder Victim Has A Story."

3 comments:

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

So young. It is so wrong and so tragic.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi. Yes, it is very tragic. I am doing this series because the lack of attention allows our society to hide from this massive social problem. It becomes this "routine" thing that happens; it vanishes into the background.

I will admit, however, that even though I believe this work is important, researching and writing these articles is emotionally difficult. The next one (still in draft) is quite powerful (the biggest to date).

Shenee said...

THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS
DEANGELO WAS ONE OF MY OLD GOOD FRIENDS THAT I LOST TOUCH WITH I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT THIS UNTIL I LOOKED HIM UP ON FACEBOOK AND YOUR ARTICLE POPPED UP. I AM IN SHOCK AND ALL THIS IS REALLY TRAGIC WHEN SOMEONE IS KILLED BUT EVEN WORSE WHEN YOU FIND OUT ITS SOMEONE YOU KNOW!

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