It’s Trayvon Martin all over again
Shooting of teen reopens Milwaukee’s racial wounds
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Darius Simmons was buried between two tall maple trees, nine days after he was gunned down, allegedly by an angry neighbor who believed the 13-year-old had stolen his shotguns.
The tragedy has reopened wounds in Milwaukee, which has a long history of racial strife, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday. A Black boy shot at close range; the suspect, a 75-year-old white man now charged with first-degree intentional homicide. The boy and his family recently moved to the block, where the man has lived for decades, watching the neighborhood change from all-white to multiethnic.
And police are accused of treating the victim’s family with a heavy hand. They grilled Darius’ mother for two hours while the boy lay dead and left the family’s house in disarray after scouring it in vain for the shotguns. They also arrested one of Darius’ brothers for a year-old truancy violation.
“This was a huge, huge loss–one of those injustices that you can’t even calculate,” the Rev. Willie Brisco, president of the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, said at the youth’s funeral Saturday. “You want to be angry but you realize that anger doesn’t solve it.”
“It’s just unconscionable,” Rainbow Push Coalition executive Tavis Grant said at the services, which drew a couple of hundred mourners to All Peoples Church, a multiracial Lutheran congregation.
Also attending was Mayor Tom Barrett, who on Friday promised an investigation of how police treated Darius’ mother, Patricia Larry. So were three aldermen, the president of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP and representatives of the Nation of Islam.
Darius attended at All Peoples Church, where he worked in the garden, cracked jokes frequently, occasionally whispered with friends during prayers, but always, Pastor Steve Jerbi said, responded respectfully when called to account.
“The kind of kid who, one quick look from the pastor, he’d quiet down,” Jerbi said.
Jerbi said Darius’ death raises questions, but Saturday was not a day to press for answers but to mourn.
“I want to be perfectly clear on this one point: This is not part of God’s divine plan. This is not something that was written in the stars,” Jerbi said.
“And so if we ask ourselves where is God in the midst of this–God is standing on the front porch crying out. God is standing on the street corners saying `Why?’ … God’s heart is as broken as ours is,” the pastor said.
Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder Jesse Jackson said he will be in Milwaukee on Monday for the arraignment of John H. Spooner, the man charged in the shooting. The Chicago-based organization also plans to march here next Saturday against Wisconsin’s concealed-carry gun law.
Police have defended their handling of the case.
“Darius’ mother was a critical witness and experienced detectives take the greatest care in getting a statement from a family member so close to the victim of a tragedy,” the department said in a statement. “This may have taken more time than we would have liked, but the result was the immediate arrest of a criminal suspect.”