Police reports about the final moments of Demetrius Cruz’s life include the kind of information that is at once difficult to fathom and yet somehow part of the ordinary but tragic tapestry of life in the U.S.
Cruz was riding in a car with his cousin on a Denver street Saturday when the driver of a white car started bumping, following and then chasing the teens’ car. Cruz called his aunt. He was scared. Someone in the white car fired several shots, striking and killing Cruz. He was just 15 years old. That same night in Kansas City, Mo., a bullet sliced through the body of 4-year-old Aydan Perea while he was sitting in a car with his dad. Police say Perea was the innocent and unsuspecting victim of a gang drive by. Days later, on Tuesday, Dalton Williams, 16, was killed in Pierre, S.D. with a shotgun wielded by a friend after a dispute over a paintball game.
In each case, local newspapers and television stations captured the shocking and sad details. But no national media camped outside the boys’ homes, schools or places of worship. No satellite trucks were driven in to beam the faces of these human sacrifices to America’s gun violence problem abroad. The president did not call to offer his condolences. Nor did he come to town to give a speech. And no professional athletes sent their jerseys or spoke publicly about the boys’ deaths.
That’s because 20 at a time trump 1 at a time…and, I’m sorry to say, probably because a prosperous middle-class mostly white school also draws more attention. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a battered impoverished mostly non-white school in Chicago or Houston would get just as much and the same kind of attention if 26 people were killed there…But I wonder.
Cruz, Perea and Williams are just another string of child shooting victims whose deaths somehow seem not uncommon because they happened one at a time. Together though, child shooting fatalities in the U.S. last year alone amounted to more than two dozen Sandy Hook massacres — and the country has scarcely reacted.
In 2011, guns were used to murder 8,583 people living in the U.S., according to the most recent FBI data available. Among those murdered by guns, there were 565 young people under the age of 18, and 119 children ages 12 or younger — the latter number nearly equivalent to six Newtown mass shootings. And these figures include only homicides.