Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Every Murder Victim Has A Story: Homicides Continue Despite Improvement In Crime Statistics (UPDATED)

Several jurisdictions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area have reported a reduction in homicides. In Washington, DC, for example, the 2010 homicide rate fell 9% below the previous year.

Despite the improving crime statistics, homicides continue to affect persons across the region. The anguish of families and friends of the victims exists despite the improving statistics. The details of these homicides are worth telling, because every murder victim has a story.

Bryant Morillo

On January 1, 2011, 16-year-old Bryant Morillo's life was extinguished. His death has left his family in turmoil.

The details of Bryant's death are still emerging, but according to early reports, he was the victim of a botched robbery attempt. A local ABC News station reports (via TBD.com) that shortly before he was killed, Morillo and a friend were waiting at a bus stop in a neighborhood in the Northwest section of Washington.

Two males approached the teens and demanded that they turn over their coats and an iPod. Bryant and his friend refused to comply with the robbers' demands. Apparently angered by the teens' defiance, the robbers shot both boys. Bryant died, but his friend survived the attack.

A man who witnessed the event administered CPR on Bryant until medical assistance arrived. Bryant died later in the hospital. The man, who has not identified himself to media, said that he did not want Bryant to die alone on the street.

Aaron Woodfork (No picture available)

On December 19, 29-year old Aaron Woodfork was gunned down in the Northeast section of Washington, DC. Aaron was with a friend at the time, and both individuals were shot. Aaron died, while his friend survived.

Aaron's death has received only scant attention in the media. Most media articles simply reprint the brief police news release concerning his death. Aaron's friends however, have utilized social media and blogs to honor his memory.

Several of Aaron's friends, for example, have posted tributes on Homicide Watch D.C., a blog that analyzes homicides and homicide investigations and legal proceedings in Washington, DC. One friend left a message that reflects many of the positive statements that other individuals posted on the blog:

My heart is truly filled with sadness. To the parents, brothers and family of Aaron, you have my deepest sympathy. Aaron was a kind young man. I was so proud of him. Not only did I know him from living in the same neighborhood but he was actually one of the few persons I trusted to care for my daughter when she was only 5yrs old. Its hard leaving your children but knowing he worked at the community center made it a little easier for me to do so. He assured me she would be fine. My daughter(13) is taking this extremely hard, as we all are. The way he died was horrible, but the way he lived was wonderful. Just knowing him was a pleasure. I know the community center will never be the same without him. He was so caring and understanding with the children and teenagers. He was perfect for the job. He knew how important the community center was to the children because as a young child he practically lived at the community center. It will be very difficult for many of us to walk in the doors of the community center and not see him at the front desk, but I know his spirit will be present. He will be truly missed.
Aaron mentored children at the College Park Community Center. Many people who discussed his memory mentioned his work with children at the Center. The Center houses the College Park Judo Club, which provides an athletic outlet for children in the area. The Club's website recognizes Woodfork's contributions to community service:

College Park Judo extends our sympathy to the family and friends of Aaron Woodfork. He was a valued member of the College Park Community Center Family and a good friend to College Park Judo Club.
Roosevelt Brockington

On January 1, 40-year-old Roosevelt Brockington was stabbed to death inside Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Roosevelt was killed in the hospital boiler room. Roosevelt worked as an engineer at the hospital, and he was responsible for maintaining the building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Robbery was the apparent motive in Roosevelt's death. And, eerily, a friend overheard his killing. According to several news reports, Roosevelt was on the phone with a friend during his murder. His friend overheard an individual demand money. After Roosevelt turned over his money, the robber asked whether he had more. Roosevelt said that he did not, and then he begged the robber to spare his life. Shortly after this, the friend heard Roosevelt yell three times in succession. According to his mother, Roosevelt was stabbed three times in the chest.

Roosevelt's death has stunned his numerous friends and family members. They have expressed their grief on Facebook and in media interviews. Most people who knew Roosevelt describe him as a kind, caring and very religious individual. He was a Deacon at St. John's Church of God in Washington. His grieving family does not understand his death because he had avoided trouble all of his life.

Police are currently reviewing surveillance footage in search of a suspect. Police believe that the suspect is likely another employee of the hospital and that the individual probably targed Roosevelt.

Update: Montgomery County police have made an arrest in this case.

Hezekiah Wilson

Around 7:30pm on January 2, Hezekiah Wilson, a 38-year-old autistic Baltimore resident, was in his yard playing with his dog. Minutes later he was dead. An unknown assailant shot Hezekiah and left him to die. Police have not identified a motive in this case.

Hezekiah's death baffles his friends and family. Hezekiah's older brother, Frankie Wilson, describes him as a peaceful individual, who had no enemies. His favorite activity was watching the Baltimore Ravens play football.

According to the elder Wilson, Hezekiah mainly kept to himself and spent a lot of time caring for his sick mother, with whom he lived. Wilson says that his brother's killer must be "callous, with an evil heart, evil intent, no respect for human life. . . ."

Baltimore police officer Donny Moses spoke about Hezekiah's death during a media interview, and he could not contain his emotions. Moses said that this case is "heartfelt," because Hezekiah was a vulnerable individual who did not harm others.

The case is even more baffling because police do not suspect robbery as a motive. At the time he was shot, Hezekiah was wearing a robe and slippers and thus had no personal items to steal. While police search for a motive and suspect, Hezekiah's family and friends are struggling to adjust to their painful loss.

Marquise Hall, Brian Scott and Lillie Capers

There are three other recent homicides in the Washington, DC metropolitan area that warrant discussion. These crimes, however, have not garnered much media attention at all.

Marquise Hall

The first victim is 16-year-old Marquise Hall of Baltimore. Marquise was shot several times around 5pm on January 1. Police do not have a motive or suspect in Marquise's death.

Brian C. Scott

The second victim is 21-year-old Brian C. Scott. Brian was a victim in a triple shooting in the Southeast section of Washington, DC on January 2. Brian died, while the other two victims survived. Police are still investigating the case, and there are only few details available.

Lillie Capers

The third victim is 84-year-old Lillie Capers (no picture available). Lillie was murdered in her home on Christmas day. A younger person in the home was injured during the attack. Police have identified and released a photo of a suspect who remains at large. Police describe the motive in the case as "domestic."

Update: There are a few more details in the murder of Lillie Capers. Apparently, a male suspect was attacking Lillie's granddaughter. When she intervened to protect her granddaughter, the suspect killed Lillie. Lillie's granddaughter was injured in the attack, which police describe as an incident of domestic violence.

Update II: Prince George's County police have made an arrest in this case.

Final Thoughts

The news that homicides have fallen is undoubtedly positive. These statistics, however, do not erase the reality of violence and the pain that it causes.

These statistics also cannot undo the underlying factors -- including, poverty, lack of economic opportunity, racism, mental health issues, and patriarchy -- that contribute to violence in US cities. Homicides are not solely a problem of policing. Instead, these crimes are caused by numerous social factors. Accordingly, only a comprehensive approach can lead to a permanent reduction in homicides.

Despite the depth of this problem, many homicide victims, especially persons of color, are ignored by the media and politicians. Ignoring these cases allows society to turn away from the problem. In order to fill the void, I have dedicated space on Dissenting Justice to portray the victims' stories.

[Note: This article is part of an ongoing series on Dissenting Justice called "Every Murder Victim Has A Story." Because our society tends to dehumanize and ignore murder victims who are persons of color, I tell their stories in order to humanize them.

As a way of doing this, I consistently use their "first names," rather than simply referring to them by their surnames. I find this approach particularly useful with younger victims, because it helps me emphasize that they are children.

Although this is not the accepted method of reporting, I believe that it brings a more personal touch to the stories, and, at least for the near future, I will continue to report the stories in this manner. I welcome your feedback on this issue. Thanks for reading.]


ruralcounsel said...

"Because our society tends to dehumanize and ignore murder victims who are persons of color, I tell their stories in order to humanize them."

Or are these incredibly pointless murders just so distressingly frequent and commonplace that society has pity-fatigue?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

No - we can never have "pity-fatigue." We still see news media vigils for missing white kids or sympathetic white murder victims. We still have room for sympathy in these cases.

Patricia Kayden said...

Great blog -- just discovered it. Great that you put a face on the victims of murder in the D.C. Metro area. Makes them more real.

49erDweet said...

I salute you for speaking out on the under-reported homicide victim issue in your locale, giving victims back their names and faces.
I don't think it's a "pity-fatigue" problem, either. I think it's frustration with a block of voters who seem to continue to support inner city politicians who won't work on (unpopular) issues they can and should respond to, but instead consistently fall back on the "blame the other guys" ploy. The other guys aren't stupid, and they don't understand a mindset that accepts perennial victimhood.

Bakes said...

Darren, very late to the comments, but I just discovered your blog. Thank you for taking the time to give the victims a bit of a voice, and an identity. I lived in the DC area for 16 years after college, so I'm all too familiar with the locale.

To ruralcounsel's comment, I understand the sentiment, but "pity-fatigue" is no different from ignoring the human stories behind each victim. In short, no different from "dehumanizing" them.

Real Time Analytics