Saturday night had been Sunday morning for just over an hour when death came to a street in Dayton, Ohio.
A young man killed eight folks who had been outside a bar.
He’s dead, too. Probably killed by police.
One of the killer’s victims was his sister.
Maybe she was an intended victim.
Maybe she’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She had been a student at Wright State University. Another student also died. So did a machinist, a mother of two and a father of four.1
Looking for Answers
We know who, how, where and how many were killed.
The crime’s “why” is another matter. The killer is dead, so investigators can’t ask him.
One of the biggest puzzles is why he killed his sister. They’d been together earlier in the evening, along with another young man.
A USA Today article says that the killer hit his first victim in an alley before moving on to the street where he killed his sister and other folks.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl says it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t have recognized his own sister — and hard to believe that he’d deliberately kill her.
Maybe he shot first and noticed his victim’s faces later.
Maybe recognizing his sister’s body filled him with remorse, and that’s why he killed himself. Assuming that reports of his being shot by police were wrong. That’s not such a wild assumption, given what happened at last week’s Garlic Festival.
We’re also reading the familiar expressions of grief, and accounts of the killer’s fascination with violence.2
I’ve seen several explanations for last weekend’s killings in Dayton.
Some blame technology: video games or guns. Apparently nobody’s blaming cars, although the killer used an automobile.
Others say gay marriage advocates caused the killings. Or that the true villain is the American president.
I’ve yet to see Ned Peppers Bar fingered as the culprit.
Which is odd, considering America’s bluenose traditions. Or maybe not so much.
Times change. As more Americans realized what Prohibition was really like, slogans like “The Saloon Must Go” lost their power.
the Anti-Saloon League repackaged itself as the American Council on Alcohol Problems, and that’s another topic.3
I’m pretty sure what America needs is not tougher video game control laws or a crackdown on political activists. And that nobody forced a young man to kill folks in Dayton.
I also think that what he did was wrong, and that he is at least partly responsible for pulling the trigger.
My views are somewhat countercultural. As a complete set, at any rate.
I think murder is wrong. Most folks would almost certainly agree.
But I’m not sure how much agreement there is on why it’s a bad idea.
I see murder as deliberately killing an innocent human being. It’s wrong because human life is sacred, a gift from God. Each of our lives matters. Age or health isn’t a factor. Being human is. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258, 2261, 2268-2283)
Seeing the killer as a person whose life is precious isn’t easy. Not for me, anyway.
But easy or not: I must remember that the young killer is as human as I am.
What we do, who we are and where we live don’t change that. (Catechism, 360, 1700–1706, 1932–1933, 1935)
Acknowledging responsibility matters.
I decide what I do with my life. I can try helping or hurting others. We all can. (Catechism, 1701–1709, 2258)
I’m happy that more folks weren’t killed outside that bar. Relieved might be a better word. But, assuming that early reports that the killer was in turn killed by police are accurate, I’m glad that he was stopped before ending more lives.
Ideally, police could use technology filling the gap between words and bullets. Stun guns made the transition from science fiction to commercial production a few decades back, and that’s yet another topic.4
I don’t envy those who must decide whether to use lethal force or let a killer continue ending innocent lives.
I’d like living in a world where violent individuals could be stopped without killing them. Or, ideally, in a world where some folks never decided to commit murder.
This isn’t an ideal world, so I think that defending innocent lives, using the least force necessary, is okay: even if that action results in the attacker’s death. (Catechism, 2263–2267)
The last I heard, we don’t know why a young man decided to kill folks in Dayton.
Motives for mass murders in an El Paso Walmart and the Gilroy Garlic Festival seem a bit clearer.5
Possibly because those mass murders fit currently-accepted expectations. That’s a can of worms I’ll leave for another day.
Motives matter. So do circumstances. But some things are wrong, no matter what. “I meant well” doesn’t make bad ideas okay. (Catechism, 1735–1736, 1750–1754, 1759)
And some things are right, no matter what.
I should love God and my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:43–44, 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31; Luke 6:31, 10:25–37; Catechism, 1789)
- “A High Standard”
(March 18, 2019)
- “Christchurch: Headcam at the Mosques”
(March 16, 2019)
- “Jolo: Bombs at the Cathedral”
(January 29, 2019)
- “Still More Mass Murder”
(April 25, 2018)
- “Mass Murder: No Fast Fix”
(February 18, 2018)
- “Oregon District shooting: What we’ve learned about the victims”
WHIO TV (August 4, 2019)
- “Oregon District Tragedy Fund at Dayton Foundation to help victims, survivors”
Mark Fisher, WHIO TV (August 4, 2019)
- “Dayton shooting: Nine confirmed killed, gunman also dead”
BBC News (August 4, 2019)
2 Facts, puzzles and questions:
- “Did Dayton gunman target his own sister? Idea ‘defies believability,’ police chief says”
John Bacon and Alan Gomez, USA Today (August 5, 2019)
- “Dayton police: ‘Not close enough at all’ to determine a motive in Oregon District shooting”
Sarah Brookbank and Chris Mayhew, Cincinnati Enquirer (August 5, 2019)
- “Connor Stephen Betts, identified as Dayton suspected shooter, once kept ‘hit list,’ ‘rape list,’ classmates say”
WPVI-TV Action News (August 5, 2019)
- “Death of Dayton gunman’s sister makes family history a focus”
NPR (August 4, 2019)
- “Garlic Festival shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police chief says”
Amir Vera, CNN (August 2, 2019)
- News and views
- “Victims’ cousin has a message for Trump”
CNN (August 4, 2019)
- “Trump is leading our country to destruction
Max Boot, Opinion, Washington Post (August 4, 2019
- “Dayton shooting due to family breakdown, gay marriage, video games, state lawmaker says”
Dayton Daily News (August 4, 2019)
- “Victims’ cousin has a message for Trump”
- Collins Dictionary
I live near Dayton. Thanks for your reflections on this tragic event.
You’re quite welcome. This sort of thing is never good news, but seems worse when it’s close to home.
We’ve even had trouble, here in central Minnesota. ( https://brendans-island.com/catholic-citizen/shopping-center-attack-why-i-care/ )
Wrong punctuation: “He’s dead. too.”
The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader
Quite so. Fixed. 🙂 Thanks!