Last week, just as my column detailing how primed Mayor Sandy Stimpson is for re-election next year was hitting the streets, two of the remaining major mayoral challenges I mentioned reared their heads. Timing is everything, right?
Those two challenges — improving our racial harmony and doing something about the explosion of murders — came wrapped together in the senseless shooting of De’Launa Powell Anderson Oct. 18. The 24-year-old mother of one got up early and was heading out to a work training class when she was shot several times from outside the driver’s door of her car at a stop sign along the Interstate 10 Service Road near Duval Street. After being shot, Anderson drove onto the westbound interstate, but her wounds were too great and she died and wrecked her car near Michigan Avenue.
Ms. Anderson’s apparently unprovoked and senseless murder would be shocking enough on any day in Mobile, Alabama, but it accompanied nine more murders that had already taken place in our city in October alone. As I write this, two more murders this past weekend became the latest bookends to October’s bloodbath. Let’s hope we can make it through Halloween without more.
This isn’t Chicago, where thousands of murders a year have become the norm. In Mobile three or four murders in a month would normally be a lot. Last year we had only 23 total. Twelve in 23 days’ time is certainly shocking and would suggest Mayor Stimpson’s hopes of Mobile becoming the country’s safest city are still far from being reality.
Ms. Anderson’s murder obviously was jarring enough that it stirred Mobile Police Chief James Barber to write an impassioned and moving post on his Facebook page decrying the violence plaguing the city. Unfortunately he ended the post making a comparison between local reaction to Ms. Anderson’s death versus that of Michael Moore, a 19-year-old shot in June by MPD Officer Harry Hurst.
Hurst had pulled Moore and two other young men over for a traffic violation and discovered the car Moore was driving had been reported stolen. According to witnesses inside the car, Moore put a pistol in the back waistband of his shorts and exited the car. Hurst shot him several times, including while on the ground, but accounts of whether or not Moore went for the pistol are conflicting and an investigation is still underway. Moore’s death was met with protests in Mobile’s black community as well as accusations of police brutality. It’s obviously still a very sensitive issue, and Barber kind of kicked a hornets’ nest.
“Everyone remembers the name Michael Moore but not even a peep about Delauna (sic) Anderson,” Barber wrote. “I intend to change that narrative, albeit uncomfortable, about the real victims in the African-American community. It is time!”
While the sideswipe at Moore obviously came out of frustration at how outraged community leaders are when someone possibly engaged in criminal behavior is shot by a police officer, but how patiently those same leaders seem to accept the murder of people like Ms. Anderson, it immediately drew backlash in the new World Court known as Facebook. Barber’s post was pounced upon by commenters who felt mentioning Moore was insensitive to the Moore family and out of line given that the investigation into his shooting is ongoing.
But in the tuned-up world of online trolling things always get out of hand. The back and forth between Barber’s wife and daughter with those upset by the chief’s post reached a crescendo that brought us right back to square one racially. Faith Barber and a commenter named Sam Louis got into an exchange in which she eventually wrote, “Are you threatening her? Surely you know better!” regarding Barber’s daughter. Louis replied “You tried it Faith Barber LADY try again all BLACKS AREN’T VIOLENT,” to which Faith Barber replied, “Since when?”
That comment triggered outrage among many black community leaders and Barber ended up apologizing publicly last Wednesday for both his and his wife’s posts, and hopefully then went home and installed a trigger lock on the family computer keyboard. Thankfully the controversy seems to have died down, because, as is almost always the case, these racial conflicts are a massive waste of time and energy.
In the meantime, people are still being murdered. We’re up to 35 for the year, which I guess isn’t bad if you compare us to Chicago or New Orleans and if you can just write off any one of those murders as acceptable collateral damage. I’d imagine De’Launa Anderson’s 5-year-old daughter doesn’t feel that way. Nor do I think she’ll be comforted as she grows up without her mother that her life was one lost during that crazy October 2016 Mobile murder spree.
Yesterday MPD put out a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who killed Ms. Anderson. State Rep. Napoleon Bracy has also started a GoFundMe page to help raise another $5,000 in order to catch the sociopath who killed this young woman.
That the community seems galvanized to find De’Launa Anderson’s killer is a move in the direction Barber envisioned, even if he did get off to a sputtering start. But in that same press release announcing the rewards, MPD also listed 12 more unsolved murders. That means at least a dozen murderers are walking our streets right now.
And these killings have taken place all over town, so it’s not as if they only happened in a two-block area. You have to wonder if some of these killers will strike again.
I know this murder explosion is having an effect on our collective psyche. Just this week I suggested going to a store at 9 p.m. on a slightly seedy stretch of Government Street, only to have my daughter say she was too worried about our safety. I tried to argue back, but then thought better of it. Maybe she was right.
If someone like De’Luana Anderson can get murdered just driving to work at 4 a.m., what’s to keep us from getting shot in front of a store at 9 p.m.? Let’s hope Ms. Anderson’s tragic death can at least be a wake-up call for all of us to realize this is a citywide problem and we all need to be part of the solution.