Aside: This got a bit long, and is an outpouring of my angry, confused thoughts after waking up to the Dunn verdict this morning. There is this great comment by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I can recommend Elon James White’s twitter account as a starting point to read more commentary by people more affected by the verdict than myself. But this had to get out, too.
The jury could not agree whether Mr. Dunn shooting 10x into a SUV filled with 4 Black teenage boys and killing one of them, Jordan Davis, was murder, but agreed that he was guilty on 3 accounts of attempted 2nd degree murder (for the 3 other kids.)
I am thoroughly saddened, angered, and confused by this.
As a white German middle-class man I’m of course in a completely different social position than Jordan Davis, his friends in the car, his family, or other African-Americans. I do feel genuine empathy. How horrible it must be to not only lose a loved one to violence, but to have to feel like the the system you live in is still rigged against you, is still violent against you, and is still failing you.
That said, here are a few things about the case that confuse and also anger me:
I have no in-depth knowledge of US/Florida law, so/but the verdict confuses me. The Floridian Stand Your Ground principle in general confuses me, I’m also baffled how it can be seen as so apparently normal that civilians ride around with concealed handguns in their glove compartments. The verdict itself also logically confuses me: How can they decide that shooting at 3 kids without harming them is attempted murder (which I agree it is) but can’t decide that shooting and actually killing the 4th kid in the same act is 2nd degree murder. I can maybe see how it’s not 1st degree, but not even 2nd degree murder? If Mr. Dunn shot in self-defense because Jordan pulled a shotgun on him, wouldn’t the other 3 teenagers just be in the line of fire of his self-defense? Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge of the law, but that doesn’t seem logical to me.
I understand that the defense was just doing their job. However, the argument that the teens had plenty of time to hide the alleged shotgun after escaping from Dunn’s bullets, and that the police was at fault for not immediately searching for the gun? What, besides racial stereotypes, should’ve prompted the police department to immediately start a search for a hidden gun after finding a car riddled with the bullets of an adult’s gun, with a dying young man inside? Maybe if Dunn had waited in the area, at least called the police explaining: “Hey, some guy just pulled a gun on me, had to defend myself, shot at the SUV, SUV moved away, I’m at suchandsuch motel.” But he didn’t.
I think that is a crucial point. I’m sure his partner was hysteric, after all her man just shot at a bunch of kids in a random parking lot. But didn’t he feel terrible, too? He used deadly fucking force. In the first season of ER, a regular comes to the emergency room numerous times because his store gets robbed so often. Towards the end of the episode, a young Black man is brought to the ER, fatally wounded. The store owner shot him, fed up with being robbed, and basically in self-defense. The store owner is in the er, too, he feels terrible. If I just possibly killed a person in self-defense, I’d be hysteric, too. I’d probably need an EMT myself. And not just a good night’s sleep and a couple of hours drive home.
Even if you have nerves of steel, or especially then: Wouldn’t you want to at least check in with the authorities, even if you just want to make sure that your side is immediately heard, that the police understand that they were thugs and you were protecting your life? Wouldn’t you feel terrible after shooting at fellow humans?
The only real way to answer that with the action Dunn took is if you don’t consider Jordan Davis and his friends to be fellow human beings. They had to be just “thugs”* not worthy of human reaction in his eyes. That’s the only real way you can explain Dunn’s actions. He had to be so sure that it would be obvious to the police that the 4 teenagers were just unworthy thugs, that he didn’t need to explain to the police what happened, that you don’t have to give your bullets’ targets another thought.
That is truly maddening.
*Concerning the word thug in this case, remember what the greatest DB in the game, Richard Sherman, said: Thug is the acceptable way of calling somebody the nword.