On Feb 15th Utica recorded the first homicide of 09'. Like all murders it was a tragic, senseless, 100% preventable act. An undelible blemish on an otherwise exemplary crime rate track-record for the City of Utica.
We do not live in Maybary. Utica is no stranger to violence, but in recent years the typical street violence associated with drug dealing and other forms of organized crime had been on a steady decline.
Senseless violence, however, is a different story. It really doesn't matter how a particular set of circumstances lead to a murder. It is the act, itself that defines the circumstance.
The fact that violence is the first option for some of us is alarming.
This murder is an abberation. It is an anomoly.
Murder, thank God, is an abberation- an anomoly.
Rich, poor, black white. It does not matter.
In this case, the case of 17 yr old Joshua Smith, we are at a loss. We can isolate contributing factors. We can use statistics and say one group of people is more prone to violence than the other.
Someone always undoubtedly bucks the odds and at the end of the day it is always about loss, waste and regret.
This case is no different. The two main suspects, Harold Jones and Anthony Ruffin were not typical neighborhood thugs. The two teenage cousins spent a lot of time together, most of it, by all appearances innocent.
What goes on in the minds of young people has been a baffling question for adults since the dawn of man. As grown-ups we all reach a point where the void from childhood to adulthood can be a mazelike chasm as confusing as income taxes but through it all we learn to trust, to have faith in the good advice we, as adults, may have shared.
We trust and hope they will not get involved with 'bad things' and they will always do the right thing.
Then something happens. They become teenagers armed with the confidence your good advice gave them. Now they want to see for themselves what all the hubbub is about. Some go a little farther than others revealing issues that may have lied dormant until now. The innocence is withering away.
Who can forget the 13yr old kid in Vernon who killed his father with a shotgun.
No one on the outside ever saw it coming. Only later was it divulged the child may have suffered from some severe mental disorders. But even his dad thought...he was safe.This case is no different.
We know these kids.
16 yr old Anthony 'Man - Man' Ruffin was an avid basketball player who spent most his time working on his jumper and schooling everyone on his ( and my)block, Linwood Pl.. He has a loving mother and father. A tighknit family with an eye on responsibilty.
There were solid examples for him to follow and not follow. He went to school regularly evan had a curfew.
His cousin and alleged accomplice Harold 'Nick' Jones was also an avid ballplayer and was quickly developing into a man sprouting nearly two inches in little over a year. His development was also validated by his newly acquired squeaky-deep voice. He has allegedly had a few recent brushes with the law and I know of at least one awkward and potentially explosive situation regarding his behavior,but none of these things equalled murder.
Not even close.
According to both of them it was an accident. I am inclined to believe them.
Remember, I saw them everyday.
I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt because the alternative is to hard to accept. I can't get my mind around it. I choose to believe them because I cannot imagine these boys that I have known all these years killing anyone on purpose. I can't imagine these guys walking around playing the dozens with murderous intentions fooling everyone. Most career criminals, prone to violence, work their way up to murder. We would have at least labeled them 'bad kids'.
They weren't labeled...it had to be an accident.
In the meantime we look for answers. We wonder: How did they get a gun? A 'perfect storm' of negative moments punctuated by gunfire.
Utica is a battle scarred city losing the fight against a stagnant economy. Violence should be a bit further down the list when one counts all the problems that plague segments of our community.
But it isn't, rightfully so.
But that does not comfort the family of Joshua Thompson. The fact it does not happen everyday does not make it any easier to accept.
I offer no solution.
But I will readily admit, I was raised in violent times, more violent than now.
The cup is still half-full.
We can each help fill it.