A dog can really steal your heart. Who could resist smiling upon learning that the Davie Fire-Rescue, police and sanitation workers worked for hours to save Sugar, a 2-month-old Pomeranian who fell into a pipe in the yard.
It was a complicated procedure. Oxygen had to be blown into the pipe to provide clean air for the pup while a remote-controlled camera was inserted to help locate it. Four hours later a scruffy but otherwise safe Sugar was returned to his owners.
Someone visiting from a foreign country might hear this story and think that if we spend this amount of precious time and effort to rescue a trapped dog then as a society we value life dearly. Unfortunately, this may not be true. Way too often we see clear signs of increased violence either in words or deeds that are robbing Americans of the friendly, outgoing and positive qualities that have typically characterized us.
This comes to mind with the case of Michael Dunn, the white 47-year-old software engineer who saw fit to fire a 9mm handgun 10 times into the car of four black teenagers because they were disrespectful and would not turn down the loud rap music that was thumping from their car at a gas station. Three of the bullets hit and killed Jordan Davis, 17, who was sitting in the rear passenger seat of the SUV, but miraculously missed his friends.
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Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis met by sheer chance. Dunn and his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, were returning from the wedding of Dunn’s son in Jacksonville and they stopped at a convenience store in a gas station for wine and chips. After Rouer went into the store, Dunn allegedly asked the teens who were parked next to him to lower the “thug” music and an argument ensued.
Dunn said that he felt physically threatened, although there is no evidence that the teens got out of the car. He also alleges that one of them had a shotgun and pointed it at him, at which time he dropped down on one knee and shot at the car multiple times while the teenagers sped away. Davis and his friends did not return any shots, and police found no shotgun. When Rouer returned to the car, they left and went to a hotel as previously planned without calling the police — as if nothing happened.
How can this be if Dunn thought the boys to be armed and threatening? During the trial, Dunn and Rouer part ways under oath in court testimony. Rouer missed the argument between her fiancé and the kids because she was inside the store, but she says that Dunn never mentioned to her in the days that followed that the teenagers were armed. Was there a lapse of memory on Dunn’s part? Not likely.
The jury came back with three convictions for attempted second-degree murder, each carrying a penalty of 20 years, and one for shooting or throwing a deadly missile, which adds 15 years more, meaning Dunn could be in jail for the rest of his life.
The jury, however, dead-locked on whether Dunn was guilty of first-degree murder in Davis’ death. Murder in the first degree requires premeditation. For Davis’ family, this was another terrible blow, leaving them to feel that justice did not serve their son.
Davis’ dad said his son was a good kid, and the teen’s autopsy report shows that he had not consumed alcohol or drugs. We do not know if Dunn had alcohol or was on any type of drug during the shooting. We do know that Jordan Davis joins a growing group of teenagers whose names, like Trayvon Martin, are tragically becoming too familiar because they died at the hands of bizarre, self-righteous, senseless avengers who have no place on our streets.
Despite the controversial Stand Your Ground law that some misinterpret to mean shoot if someone bothers you, Dunn will probably spend the rest of his years in jail. And yes, we have to thoughtfully review our attitudes toward the use of firearms, particularly as a certain coarseness, which we must fight, creeps into our lives.
Speaking of creeps, Dunn showed little emotion during the trial except when speaking, teary-eyed, of his happy life with his fiancée and their puppy Charlie.
Yet he had no tears for Jordan.