Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Today as I was looking around for a local article suitable for the OD's Lawson File I ran across this story in the Wichita Eagle about a young man (whose father is pictured here) gunned down as he sat in his car because his killers didn't like the way he looked.

I simply cannot understand how we have reached a state where human life means absolutely nothing to some people.

Before you fire back emails telling me about how we kill and maim in Iraq, or about the lousy lives so many lead, I get that folks.

I don't excuse the Presidents, Kings, and potentates who take send their young people off to kill others an be killed to satisfy their egos or some bizarre policy, or greed, or profit or whatever.

And I do know many lead lives in which their own worth is minimized.

But still, I fortunately can't get how one person looks another person in the eyes and just ends their life...and then goes on about their day.

Take the case of Derreck Burruss, a sixteen year old from Tuscon who was gunned down Saturday maybe because he was from the wrong side of town or something.

"He was an average teenager. He always showed up to school. He liked to dance, he liked music," said Burruss' stepfather, Bruce Culver, 53. "And, he never did any drugs or smoked. He liked computer games."

He said, "He just wanted to bring his grades up. He wanted to go to a vocational college."

Culver said his stepson's friends told him that Burruss and his pals, one 15 and the other 16, had stopped at a bus stop to rest.

The stepfather said two teens approached and the older of the two asked, "Where you guys from? The East Side or the West Side?"

"Derreck said, 'We're East Side.' That's when the 18-year- old pulled the gun out and said, 'No you ain't. I know everybody from the East Side' " and he shot Burruss, Culver said.

"He shot him and ran away. Point blank," Culver said.

Shot dead because he answered "East Side."

Or how about Charlene McIntosh Amrhein, 46, and the mother of two. She had just stepped outside her apartment building in Sanford, Florida to take a smoke and got stabbed to death for her troubles.

Why was she killed? Well Solim Kolassiba, the twenty year old who has confessed to the crime, told the cops he was "mad and angry." Not at her mind you. He'd never met Charlene. Heck, he was mad so he went out and killed a total stranger.

Or how about Corey Krueger of Glendale Heights, Illinois. who was out walking his brothers dog not long ago when some creep ended his life.

Corey was a hardworking guy who was described as generous to a fault.

"He worked very early, so he would go start the car up and take the dog for a walk," said Shaun Krueger, who added that his brother was a sanitation worker in Joliet and usually left for work at around 2 a.m.

Corey's wife, Kristin, added, "He was getting ready to go to, just warming up the car, and taking our dog out and making sure that the vehicle was warm for my son and I, so we could take him to work and we weren't inconvenienced."

Isaias Beltran didn't care about that, didn't care about anything apparently. Beltran had never met the man he murdered.

Krueger suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Rescuers rushed him to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he died from his injuries.

Police described the murder as a random attack. They say the killer may have been attempting to rob Krueger. Well, there is a reason...need a few bucks...might as well shoot someone in the head while you're at it.

I don't get. I don't want to get it. I don't know what is to be done about it, but I think senseless acts of individual violence iare worth the attention of those of us who call ourselves leftists, progressives, anarchists.

The following is from the Wichita Eagle.

Police say dirty look led to homicide

The Rev. Riccardo Harris spent New Year's Eve praying for God's protection over youth in his Resurrection Community Church, including his 19-year-old son, Robert Ridge.

Now Ridge is dead -- shot Saturday night over a supposed dirty look, police said.

"Never in a million years would I have thought that I could say his name and say 'murder' and 'gunshot' in the same sentence," Harris said Monday. "And that reality is hard for me to wrap my mind around."

Two men, ages 18 and 23, were arrested on suspicion of homicide in connection with the shooting, police said. Police identified both as documented gang members.

Ridge was a passenger in a car that stopped for a light at Murdock and Hillside at about 11:15 p.m., Capt. Randy Landen said. A second car pulled up to the intersection with four people in it.

Because the car that Ridge rode in was waiting for four friends in a third car, the driver pulled over on Murdock at Lorraine. The second car pulled over next to the first, "some words were exchanged between the two cars," and then the driver fired several shots toward the first car, Landen said.

Through the course of the investigation, police learned the shooting occurred because the driver didn't like the way Ridge looked at him.

"There's never a good reason why people are killed," Landen said. "But this is particularly... I don't even know how to describe it."

Ridge was not a gang member, family and police officers said. No one he was with at the time of the shooting was a gang member.

"I'm hurt," Harris said. "I am. I'm hurting because my son is not coming home. And, I'm going to be totally honest, as it relates to the other young people, they are lost. Especially our young men."

Harris said he's been preaching against violence to his son, his two teenage daughters and other young people as a full-time substitute math teacher at Southeast High School, where he also coaches sophomore basketball and track team.

He said he and his son repeatedly talked about how "people will shoot people over nothing."

Service arrangements are pending. The Robert Ridge Memorial Fund was established at Bank of America to help cover funeral expenses.

Relatives and friends gathered Monday at the family's home.

There were tears but also laughter as they told stories about Ridge, a 2006 Metro-Boulevard graduate. He was an avid illustrator. He loved reptiles, especially snakes. He believed strongly in the Lord. He held several jobs since graduation, but quit working to devote his attention to launching a clothing line.

"He was a good kid," said his mother, Rosaland Harris.

"He had a big smile and loved to laugh," said his grandmother, Cynthia Ridge.

"And he loved his family," said his great-grandmother, Marian Ogletree. "Every family outing he was right there. You know how some kids try to stay away. Not Robert."

Their grief is coupled with a lingering anger, some family members said.

"Faith is the only thing getting us through this," said Cheniia Holloway, another grandmother. "It's the only way we'll be able to get through this."

Ridge's death feels like a call to action for Harris, though it's too early to say what he plans to do.

"His life has to mean something," Harris said. "We have to stop this mess, this violence, this killing each other."

Reach Christina M. Woods at 316-269-6791 or cwoods@wichitaeagle.com.

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