Monday, December 22, 2014

The "price" of forgetting where violence comes from

On June 1, 2006 Indianapolis police officer Michael Kermon—after failing to calm a hysterical woman outside the residence of relatives on 560 Hamilton Avenue—walked into the house and observed a macabre scene: Seven people—three of them children—murdered in what could only be described as the work of madmen or beasts. An adult male victim was shot five times, with the fatal shot later determined to be fired from a gun pressed against his head.  An adult female victim was also shot five times at close range, while she was kneeling and then while lying on her stomach. A second adult male victim was shot four times in the eyeball. A second adult female was shot four times,  at close range in the face. 

A third male victim, a child of 11, was shot three times while lying face down on a bed; the top his head had been blown off;  a fourth male victim, age 8, was also face down on the same bed—except this time he received more bullet wounds than the other victims, eight in total. He apparently had put up a struggle before he was killed, judging from the multiple areas of his body where the wounds were located. A fifth male victim, age 5, was also on the bed, the top of his head blown off.

The victims were of Mexican extraction, but—contrary to what some people might suspect—this was not a “Mexican” drug hit. These were described by neighbors as “good” people and were regular churchgoers. The neighborhood, however, had been going “bad” with the influx of “gangsta” types, and apparently a son of the oldest victim had encountered some antagonism with one of them; ironically, he was not present during the shooting. There was also some hostility toward the “Mexicans” by certain elements of the community—the kind who thinks that they are “stealing” their jobs; in the case of victims, the fact that they owned their own home and cars, it was believed that they must be “dealing.” It was decided by this “gangsta” that the “Mexicans” needed to be taught a lesson, and recruited a friend to help him “hit a lick”—meaning rob them. They believed that there was a safe inside the house with cash and cocaine. 

Armed with an AK-47 and handguns, Desmond Stewart and James Turner apparently gained entry to the house just before 10:00 PM on that evening; five of the residents were apparently dressed for bed, while two more family members—one to pick up her 5-year-old son—arrived soon afterward. But there was no safe, or cocaine, in the house. According to a prosecution witness, after Stewart returned from the fruitless search he claimed that he saw one of the victims pointing a gun at Turner, and he promptly shot him—this was the victim who was shot pointblank with the gun touching his head. Then Turner "started shooting everybody.” Stewart (who denied this testimony in court) then claimed that he “repeatedly” asked Turner not to shoot the children, but the latter was so “crazy for blood” that he did so anyways.

When the pair escaped into the night, they left behind Alberto Covarrubias, 56; Emma Valdez, 46; Magno Albarran, 29;    Flora Albarran, 22;  Alberto Covarrubias, 11;  David Covarrubias, 8; and Luis Albarran, 5. All were shot both in the head and torso. This remains the worst mass shooting in the history of the city. While there have been shootings in this country with a higher body count, few have demonstrated the kind of mad lust for murder on display here.

With the help of acquaintances of the two men who either spoke to them about the killings, or recognized the clothes and vehicle described by witnesses at the scene, Turner and Stewart were arrested within a few days. Police found clothes matching that described by one of the killers—these belonging to Turner—in a friend’s bathtub, soaking in various cleaning solvents and alcohol in an apparent effort to dissolve away the evidence.

Both Stewart and Turner denied the act, and there was no direct physical evidence putting them inside the house at the time. However, a number of witnesses testified to the pair’s intention to purchase an assault rifle and rob the house that evening, and neighborhood “kids” talked about what was about to go “down,” although a neighbor across the street from the victims’ home did not take the information seriously.

So, you might ask why I am bringing this particular case up. Because it demonstrates the extremity to which anti-immigrant hate propaganda can take? No, but it certainly played a part in it. It is because at the moment of this writing I have encountered a couple of “gangsta” tough guys and I just don’t like the way they are looking at me because of my presumed “ethnicity.” I am also writing this because despite the fact that this could just as well have been something that police might do in encounters with individuals like Michael Brown, who was shot multiple times at close range—one must accept the fact that sometimes in this world people do things that must be remembered and be held accountable for, that these things have occurred and the people in their communities should not hypocritically claim no responsibility for them—or for that matter, claiming complete innocence, as if nothing like this ever “really” happens. 

Stewart and Turner were convicted in separate trials. Both were spared the death penalty, despite being demanded by grieving relatives after viewing the horrific crime scene and autopsy photographs. Neither are, however, likely to see the outside of a prison. But because this case did not cause anything other than a ho-hum response by the national media or the public, having occurred at the height of the anti-immigrant rhetoric during the 2006 political campaign season, and because no one was asked to “explain” it, nothing was learned from it.

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