About a half mile from our retirement community on Annapolis Neck, a hate slaying occurred in early July in a pleasantly modest neighborhood. The victims were Hispanic. The accused killer was a Caucasian male.
A long simmering feud between the perpetrator’s mother and the next-door Latino family became deadly when the former was angry about the neighbor’s car parked in front of her driveway. Her son, a military veteran, channeled his mother’s pique, prompting him to be charged with killing three people and wounding three others enjoying a birthday party at the neighbor’s home.
The shooter, Charles R. Smith, 43, faces 42 charges related to the murders, as well as hate crimes. His weapon bore a deadly poison that has brought grief and insecurity to the community.
Hate is a common denominator in mass shootings. It is a contagious pandemic in our violent country.
It is vile and vicious. Deep suffering and emotional trauma are byproducts that afflict families and friends. Nothing good results. Just troubling misery.
An easy answer to thwarting mass shooting is gun control. It seems impossible to achieve. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is too strong, its political power unstoppable. I will waste few words advocating gun control in light of scant political will on Capitol Hill.
One of the shooting victim’s sisters criticized law enforcement for failing to react to a litany of complaints about the chronic disputes between neighbors by issuing a peace or restraining order. She may be right. In today’s gun-infested times; the police cannot assume that neighborhood fights will be peacefully resolved in time—or at all.
Personal destruction is a common default. Fruitful lives disappear at the pull of a trigger.
Bigotry is an incendiary ingredient. It too seems unquenchable. Protected from deletion by the sometimes-horrific human condition, unlike a click on an inhuman laptop.
Recent census data shows that 20 percent of Annapolis’ population of 40,600 is Hispanic/Latino. Such a presence may be bothersome to people like the shooter, who probably feels threatened by people whom he considers as “other.” An argument over parking, involving his mother, triggered the deadly outburst of his fury and weapon.
Smith achieved little. His future will likely be in a prison. His mother will lose a son imprisoned, possibly for the rest of his life. Neighbors will be unforgiving. Mourning will be endless.
In our cloistered world at the BayWoods retirement community, facing the placid Chesapeake Bay, my wife and engage daily with Latinos. They work in every phase of our senior village. We treasure our relationships. We commend their work ethic and value their souls.
Still not yet adjudicated, the mass shooting seems as equally senseless as the murder of five journalists at the Annapolis Capital Gazette on June 25, 2018. Uncontrollable, unapologetic hostility underscored the shootings. As usual, guns provided the means of expression.
I do not characterize Annapolis as a dangerous area. While its urbanized environment hardly compares with the peace and tranquility of Easton, Md.—forever loved by my wife and me—I believe its flaws differ little from cities of its size. Readers may consider me too charitable.
Communal harmony is tough to achieve. Sadly so, violence-free living conditions often seem unattainable. I wish these words were unnecessary.
Just as I wish that live-shooter exercises were not a part of my grandchildren’s academic reality.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.