Check It Out…Oxford School shooter and ‘urban terrorists’
by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Last November, a mass shooting occurred at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Michigan. Fifteen-year-old Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four students and injured seven others. Crumbley was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and twelve counts of possession of a firearm while committing a felony. Crumbley faces life in prison on these charges, but the prosecutor also charged Crumbley with terrorism.
Terrorism is conducted for political reasons —right?
Michigan’s legal definition of terrorism goes beyond the political and includes acts that intimidate or coerce a civilian population.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald stated terrorism is not a usual charge, but the four killed and the seven injured were not the only victims. “The children who ran, screaming, hiding under their desk … Are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that.”
Some legal experts wondered if the terrorism charge was necessary. While other experts hinted that the terrorism charge was political. It was added because there is a “blue-state” fear that White domestic terrorism had been on the rise and “the charge of terrorism reflects that.”
Matthew Schneider, a former federal prosecutor, explained the rarity of the charge “doesn’t mean that it’s being used improperly.” Schneider likened this situation to the 1970 federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which was written to dismantle the mafia but has broadened out to help prosecute street gangs.
Once RICO was applied to street gangs, the law ran into problems. In 2012, the Michigan Journal of Race and Law published a study called Systemic Racial Bias and RICO’s Application to Criminal Street and Prison Gangs. Based on the title, no one had to read the study to know its findings.
In 2015, gang members on a retaliation mission shot forty-seven times into a crowded park in Detroit. One person was killed and eleven were injured. Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig, a Black man, called the gang members “urban terrorists”. Craig told the Black residents the police cannot end “urban terrorism” alone and insisted on their cooperation.
Instead of cooperation, the Black police chief got backlash from the president of the Detroit National Action Network. (The civil rights group founded by Al Sharpton) The president of Detroit’s NAN said, “Young people who are causing the violence in our community are not urban terrorists. They are products of bad urban policy. They are products of bad education policy. They are products of the fact that you are dealing with a city with high poverty numbers, so to relate these young people as terrorists is wrong.”
The president of Detroit’s NAN meant morally wrong, but Michigan prosecutors wouldn’t be legally wrong to charge the gang members with terrorism. Besides, those Black people in the park that ran, screamed, and looked for somewhere to hide were victims too, and so was the community that didn’t cooperate with the police out of fear of gang retaliation. The question is, why does the charge of terrorism fit the school shooter, but it has never seemed to fit drive-by shooters or perpetrators of gang retaliatory-style mass shootings?
The answer is political.
If Black gang members were charged with terrorism, the statute will run into the same problem as the RICO Act. Since there are ten times more gang shootings than school shootings, a study will inevitably conclude that charges of terrorism are disproportionally applied to Black males, making Michigan’s terrorism law systemically racist and biased.
To prevent Michigan’s minority population from being victimized by another form of systemic racism, prosecutors decided Black gang members, who are products of bad urban policy, shouldn’t be charged with terrorism.
Therefore, children that run, scream, and hide in school from a mass shooter are victims, but children who run, scream, and hide from gang shootings are not.
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