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Opinion Opinion L.A.

Want to honor the Kansas shooting victims? Let's ignore the gunman

On April 6, a Sunday, while riding along Wilshire Boulevard during CicLAvia, my wife and I passed the Jewish temple in Koreatown. Two guards in bulletproof vests stood at the entrance. “Wow, look at that,” I remember saying to my wife. “They’re serious about their security.”

On April 13 -- another Sunday -- I found out why.

In Overland Park, Kan., today, three people are dead, shot to death Sunday, allegedly by a white supremacist and anti-Semite. And although the alleged gunman reportedly was targeting Jews, they were not his victims.

The first two killed, shot in the parking lot at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, were Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, and his grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, 69. They were Methodists. The third victim, Teresa Rose Lamanno, 53, killed in a parking lot at Village Shalom, a community for seniors, was a Catholic.

But on Sunday, at least in the eyes of a bitter old man (so authorities allege), they were Jews. And they needed to die because of it.

As evidenced by the security I saw at the Koreatown temple, Jews know the world can be a dangerous place for them, based solely on their faith. But I suspect that Underwood, Corporon and Lamanno never imagined being targeted by an anti-Semite. Would any of us?

It’s as President Obama said Monday at an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House: “No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray. It has no place in our society.”

Except, sadly, Sunday’s shootings reminded us that fear does have a place in our society. It’s in a very dark place, a place inhabited by bigoted, racist people. It’s in the mind of a man who allegedly believed it was OK to kill three people solely because he hates Jews.

Authorities charged the suspect with first-degree murder. And now they say they are treating the killings as a hate crime. But we all know that won’t stop such crimes. We all feel helpless in the face of such evil, such bigotry.

So what can we do?

Well, here’s my modest proposal, my simple wish: I wish we could erase the news about the suspect. No stories about his life or his evil views. No in-depth analyses, no psychological profiles. No reconstructions of the events. I just don’t care.

Instead, I would like the news to be filled with stories about the victims: their good deeds; the people they loved, and who loved them; the promise that a 14-year-old boy showed, and the bond he and his grandfather shared; the kindness that a middle-aged woman showed for her friends and family.

They weren’t Jewish, but they didn’t hate Jews. They were good, decent people, and they didn’t deserve to die. And especially not at the hands of someone whose mind, apparently, was filled with hate.

So I’m doing my part. I’m not using that man’s name.

Because I don’t want you to remember him. I want you to remember the good people: The three people whose lives were taken.

They deserve at least that much.


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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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