The last couple of weeks have been tough for the Washington Redskins. They lost a couple of heartbreaking games and (more importantly) they lost one of their best players. Sean Taylor was shot and killed in his home in Florida a week ago Monday. Taylor and his girlfriend awoke early in the morning to noises in the house. Taylor got up and locked their bedroom door only to have the intruders kick the door in and fire two shots, one of which hit Taylor femoral artery (the wound which he could not recover from). Taylor’s girlfriend and one-year-old daughter were unharmed, hiding under the covers of the bed before calling 911.
Taylor was a staple on defense for the Skins and the University of Miami before that. In the days following his tragic death, stories started popping up all over about Taylor’s past problems with the law. Every story I read pointed out that Taylor was once arrested for aggravated assault and also for DUI. They inferred that Taylor’s somewhat checkered past and the shady acquaintances played into this incident. Perhaps old “friends”, miffed that Taylor was not sharing his good fortune with them, were the shooters. In any case, the stories would have us believe that Taylor was at least partially to blame for his own murder. This was not some random killing, a life of bad decisions finally caught up with Taylor.
However, at the time these stories were published, the police had no leads as to who was responsible. They could find no “old friends” of Taylor’s who may have been involved. Then this week, four arrests were made in the case. The young men, all between the ages of 17 and 20, have now been formally indicted in the killing. It now appears that these four broke into Taylor’s house, thinking it vacant, in order to rob the place. They did not come intending to kill anyone; they were simply planning to rob a rich guy’s house. The police believe the trigger man was the 17 year old (yet another tragic turn in the story). All four are now on suicide watch awaiting court dates, lives ruined forever. The truth is that the crime WAS completely random and senseless. Taylor’s past had no bearing on the tragedy. At Taylor’s funeral, speakers chided the media on digging up past sins when Taylor hadn’t even been buried yet. See this article for further examination.
What I see in this is that the media does not want people to feel that this could have happened to anyone. This was, in part, Taylor’s own doing. He made bad decisions that led to bad people wanting him dead. He made mistakes that we would never make; therefore we’re perfectly safe in this world. This, unfortunately, is not true.
In a similar case closer to home, Mark Loesch was taking a nighttime bike ride nine blocks away from my house when he was viciously beaten to death with a bat last September. The police officers investigating the case made two arrests shortly thereafter. The men were drug dealers and gang members. In their testimony to police, they said that Loesch approached them wanting to buy drugs. They took him to a more secluded location in an alley before beating and robbing him. A press conference was held after this testimony and the public was told that Loesch was trying to buy drugs when he was killed. They reported the testimony of two drug dealers/gang members/murderers as truth without further investigation. The family of Mark Loesch was shocked and angered that their fallen loved one was being portrayed this way (though they admit he had been through drug rehab a few years ago, they insist he was far from relapsing). They believe he was going to a friend’s house to show off the new tire on his bicycle. Loesch’s body had no drugs in its system when he died and he left his wallet at home (the thieves took $40 loose from his pocket), so why would police quickly assume he was buying drugs? More importantly, why would they believe the testimony of these criminals on immediately and state the belief in a televised press conference without consulting the family? The officer in charge of the investigation was also saddened by the reporting and went to the family to apologize to them. As a result of that visit he was removed from his homicide assignments for deviating from the standard police protocol. See this scathing column in the STrib for further examination of the sad story. Again, the media and Minneapolis city officials do not want the public thinking that this was random and could happen to them too. They wanted us to hear that Loesch approached the dealers intending to buy drugs when he was killed. This wasn’t a random robbery that ended in murder. South Minneapolis is completely safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This stuff happens to innocent people as well as those less innocent. You don’t have to go looking for trouble to find it.
We live in a fallen world, a fallen city. We live in a place steeped in sin, all of us. There is no one who is righteous. Though the reporters and officials would tell us otherwise, random violence happens to good and bad people in almost equal parts, that’s just how it is. When someone is tragically murdered and the response is to dig up all the reasons this person had it coming, it only makes the matter worse for those left behind. First their loved one’s life is violently taken away for no reason; then their loved one’s reputation is dragged through the mud in an attempt to calm the fears of the general public, to keep the people from moving to the suburbs and taking their money with them. The cycle is becoming standard practice.
What is the Christian response to this sad fact? Jesus had something to say:
“I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you
will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
We should expect these senseless acts because Jesus has warned us of them. Sin has poisoned this world, but Christ has overcome it and we can have hope and peace by looking forward to the day when Christ will finally return and abolish sin and death.