The young and pretty face smiling at us from Monday's and Tuesday's front pages will haunt many people for a long time, even those who did not know Yolanda Morales.
Morales was a bright young woman, full of promise at the age of 23, and friends said she had graduated from Bethlehem's Liberty High School and Allentown's Lincoln Technical Institute, and had worked as a medical assistant.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, said stories in The Morning Call, she was killed when young men got into a fracas that graduated from a bat attack into a wild shootout on Bethlehem's E. Third Street. Thirty shots were fired, the stories reported.
While it is hard to be analytical about the mindless fury that ended her life, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli made observations the average reader might interpret as being suggestive of a particular ethnicity.
"This is a problem of the culture of these guys, mostly males, who … because of some slight to them, they may end up with a gun in their hand to take care of business," Morganelli was quoted as saying. "These are macho guys who think they need a gun to settle a dispute."
Although Morganelli did not make the slightest reference to any group, there are ethnic connotations to all that. The deadly shooting rampage, which wounded five men in addition to killing Morales, stemmed from a dispute in a private club, the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society. Also, Morganelli used the word "macho," which is Spanish for "male" and often is used to describe belligerent or intrepid behavior.
I have a hunch some Hispanics may have felt he was talking about them, too.
I asked Morganelli if he anticipated that his comment might be taken as a shot at a particular ethnic minority.
"I didn't mean to imply that," he replied, saying the only group he had in mind was "younger guys" who can get carried away over relatively insignificant issues.
"You see this with Italian guys, too," noted Morganelli, who is of Italian descent. "It's a tough-guy culture."
He also emphasized that he did not criticize the Puerto Rican club, which was open to the public on the night in question. He said he's been to that club and had only positive things to say about it, prompting a club representative to pointedly express appreciation and support for his comments.
Still, I anticipate some negative reaction from the Puerto Rican community. The establishment where the trouble began is ethnic, participants in the violence may be ethnic and the main victim is ethnic.
Will some, I asked, resent his comments as generalizations that reflect on Puerto Ricans as a whole? "It's possible, because some people take things wrong," he said.
Meanwhile, Morganelli and Bethlehem Police Chief Jason Schiffer made it clear there is no indication that Sunday morning's violence had anything to do with drug trafficking or gang activities.
Vicious gangs, in particular, are almost always oriented along ethnic lines — from the Ku Klux Klan, to the Mafia, to the various street gangs in Hispanic or black neighborhoods, to the "Russkya Mafiya."
(That last bunch, the lily white Russian mob, has evolved into one of the worst, and one of its top international leaders is Semion Mogilevich, who is on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list and has been particularly active in Bucks County.)
It may be easy to jump to stereotypical conclusions about a bunch of men engaging in a homicidal street battle, but Morganelli and Schiffer stressed there was no sign that this was a gang turf war.
On the other hand, it was likely to make waves when a district attorney said this tragic incident resulted from a problematic "culture." It took courage for Morganelli to speak so bluntly.
We have other ethnic cultures in this area, but how often do you hear of a Pennsylvania Dutch gathering that turns into a deadly fracas in which six people get shot after going at it with baseball bats?
So it is necessary for people to face the reality that, for whatever reason, certain cultures are sometimes more volatile than others. It needs to be addressed frankly.
There also will be a fuss from zealots who always use this type of incident to support demands for gun control.
Morganelli, however, told me the weapons involved Sunday morning in Bethlehem did not appear to be used legally. "I don't think they [the shooters] had licenses to carry," he said, adding that one was a .40-caliber handgun and the other was a .45, which are large and powerful weapons.
"One was registered to someone else [from outside the area] … and the police are still tracking that down," he said.
Therefore, gun control, even as rigid as that imposed in Mexico, would not have done a bit of good in the Bethlehem situation. Only the law-abiding are constrained by gun control laws.
Hopefully, this past weekend's horrible episode in Bethlehem will spawn something positive. First and foremost, people need to acknowledge that Morganelli was right about the problems spawned by a culture — any culture, ethnic or not — in which the slightest provocation can trigger ferocious knee-jerk violence.
We cannot make such problems go away by pretending they don't exist.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.