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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Count and awareness in January 2012

Jarvis Deberry a favorite Op Ed writer. He is insightful and *real*. The reality he presents is what surrounds us in our neighborhoods. It is sad. It is especially sad because there is so little that so many of us can do to change what is. Sometimes awareness is all we have. 
As we end the month of January with 25 murders, take the time to read or re-read Jarvis' Op Ed below and understand that IF it looks or feels like an argument could escalte:
1) Get out of the way,
2) Get help.

In New Orleans, petty conflicts leads to tragic endings: Jarvis DeBerry
Article below and in link published in Times Picayune January 24, 2012
A friend tells the story about hanging out with her college boyfriend at Joe Brown Park on a weekend long ago. He told her they should probably go ahead and leave the eastern New Orleans park, she said, because, as he assessed it, "They're about to start shooting."

She looked around -- all the way around -- and didn't see any reason for alarm. She was still telling him that he was crazy, laughing at his apparent paranoia when the first shots rang out.
That's when everybody bolted for their cars and my friend and her prophetic boyfriend got trapped in the crush of panicked drivers he'd have avoided if she had only listened to him.

You're probably wondering the same thing she was wondering as she sat in the passenger's seat of the car: If he didn't see any guns, if he didn't see anybody fighting, how could he have known with such certainty that the forecast called for bullets?

Pretty easily, to hear him tell it. He could hear two men arguing. But the mere fact of their argument wasn't as disturbing to him as the realization that they were arguing about something that amounted to nothing. It had been this man's experience that the likelihood of violence is directly proportional to the pettiness of the dispute.

If we are to accept that statement as truth, we'd also have to accept the corollary that disputes over more significant matters end peacefully. I'm not so sure that's the case. But it doesn't really matter. Suffice to say that there's a history here of arguments ending with guns drawn. It's not a new phenomenon.

The U.S. Department of Justice may have finally written about the role arguments play in homicides last year, but it's been that way for a while. "In reading the narratives of the offenses," the report says, "one is struck by their ordinariness -- arguments and disputes that escalate into homicide." To which Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas says, "See! I told you." But the report has not had the mitigating effect Serpas has wished it would. Why not? If I had to guess I'd say it's because the report was old news. We've long known that we've had people killed for the most trifling of reasons. Serpas took this job knowing that.

Friday in Lakeview the grandfather of a little girl reportedly killed the girl's father after the two men argued. Farrell Sampier, 44, was booked Friday night with the second-degree murder of 21-year-old Antonio Miller. Both Miller and Sampier worked at Mondo restaurant. Chef Susan Spicer said management was aware that the two men were arguing about family matters, but added, "They both appeared to be reasonable, rational, nice, normal human beings."

On Jan. 7, 36-year-old Sabrina Elliott lost her 17-year-old son Joseph Elliot and his 41-year-old father, Joseph Evans, after, she said, she argued with her downstairs neighbor. The dispute began, Elliot said, when her children heard a commotion and ran to the window. The woman downstairs looked up and called them "whores." Elliot said she told the woman "not to disrespect my kids" and then they traded a few more harsh words "about nothing."
Police say the woman's fiance, 25-year-old Tabari Butler, and Butler's friend, 20-year-old Joseph Tate, later opened fire outside Elliot's front door, killing her son and his father.

Lisa Fitzpatrick, head of the APEX Community Center, said Joseph Elliot was known as "the reconciler" because of his peacemaking ways. He had started a Sunday-night worship group for teens and helped everybody he could, Fitzpatrick said. The mother of the teenager's newborn son was on the phone with him when he was killed and heard him trying to diffuse the tension. She heard him say, "You're neighbors." Then the phone went dead.
"Why did they shoot?" Sabrina Elliot asked a reporter, still trying to make sense of that which doesn't make any. Why they shot is unknown, but that they did after an argument about nothing shouldn't strike any of us as a surprise.

Jarvis DeBerry can be reached at or 504.826.3355. Follow him at and at

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