Cry not for Aquan Salmon

If one more weeping crocodile talks about the “tragedy” of Aquan Salmon,  I’m going to give up on watching or reading the news altogether.  I wouldn’t shed a tear for that kid if I was chopping onions while watching the end of “Old Yeller.”
    Every day, scores of good people are taken before their time unexpectedly and through no fault of their own – killed by drunk drivers, airplanes falling from the sky, or stricken by cancer.  I’ll save my sympathy for them and their families and not waste it on a delinquent youth who met his end, according to reports, after joyriding around at 2 a.m. and fresh from clubbing a woman over the head with a toy gun in order to steal her purse.
    Say what you will, but the streets of Hartford are a little bit safer because of the action Officer Robert Allan took on the night of April 13, 1999.
    The media coverage of this incident has bristled with anti-police bias and, in some cases, has been no less than astounding.  A news article from The Hartford Courant described the end of Salmon’s cruise about the neighborhood as follows: “Salmon and his three teenage friends bolted from the white Cadillac they had rented (emphasis added) for $10 to $15 because Allan was chasing them in his cruiser.”
    Rented?  As in from Hertz or Avis?  What happens in city neighborhoods is drug users, as often as not white suburbanites, will loan their car to drug dealers for a few hours in exchange for a small amount of drugs, usually crack cocaine.   A friend of mine who works with drug addicts in prison told me of an inmate he knows who did this regularly.  About one time in ten he didn’t get his car back.
    Witness accounts differ as to whether or not Salmon and his buddies exchanged drugs for the Cadillac they drove that night.  Some of them said the owner of the car was given a cash sum of 10 or 15 dollars.  Which is just about the price for a “rock” of crack cocaine.
    A writer from the Courant wrote in consecutive pieces about the Salmon investigation that it should be understandable why kids in Hartford need weapons to protect themselves from the police and what Officer Allan should have done is run away from the scene.
    She ought to re-check the level of whatever medication she must be on.
    I’d like to drop her off at the corner of Mather and Enfield at two in the morning and see how fast she starts looking for one of the big bad cops she likes to bash.  And just what she would say if one did come to her aid and, seeing she was in trouble, turned and fled.
    Meanwhile, back in the ‘hood, a squadron of Al Sharpton wannabes , are out on the streets demanding “justice” for Salmon.  These people are in the anger business.  If they really cared about black kids meeting violent deaths, they would sign up for the Big Brothers or any of the other mentoring programs which exist to help impoverished youth.
    In the Tuesday night debate,  black Presidential candidate Alan Keyes said that when he has been pulled over because of his race, his anger is directed not at the police, but at the young black men who commit a disproportionate share of violent crime.  It is they, he said, who create the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion in which our law enforcement community must operate.
    That is way too sensible a sentiment to be expressed in most of the media.
    Like anyone else would be, I’m sure Salmon’s family is pained by the loss. By most accounts his grandmother tried gallantly to raise him after his mother was arrested on felony charges and her children were removed from her custody.   But we should understand the likelihood of an early end for Salmon was secured long before Officer Allan put on his blue uniform that night.  Salmon was in and rarely out of trouble his whole life.
    Salmon had an uncle, too.  According to the testimony of the three boys who were riding around with Salmon in the wee hours, they ran into him that night and pretended to chase him with their realistic-looking toy guns.  The uncle laughed.
    But none of that really matters.  For some reason, wherever and whenever incidents like this happen, it becomes an issue of blame.  Officer Allan is not to blame, but he makes a tempting target for those who want to show just how sensitive and enlightened they are without regard to facts and reality.
    What does matter is that this kind of thing will happen again.  A bad end is the likely destiny for a bad kid.  And then people  will go through the same sort of fault-finding exercise.  And nothing will come of it.  And then it will happen again.  Laying blame is never a solution.  It is like trying to reach the horizon; the answers will remain just as far away as they ever were.
    The loud and misplaced sense of justice over the Salmon incident is yet another obstacle for the unsung and largely unnoticed people who are working in poor neighborhoods to guide troubled youths into the ranks of the law-abiding.  If there are any tears to be shed here, it is for them.

February 17,2000