Four Bullets, Two Lives, One Miracle

In a rage. In a fiery rage. Enraged enough to take a life – to fire four bullets with intent to kill. Enraged enough to cause thousands of people to attend the funeral of an 18-year old boy. Fired up enough to toss away the next 70 years of your own life. Mad, hurt and wounded enough to risk the future on the smallest of things. Or perhaps there is a simpler answer. Perhaps there was no anger and there will be no remorse. Perhaps there was only a desire to kill. The answers will come. Who is Marcus Longmire? Who is Herb Pope?

These are two young men whose lives will always be bound together. Both are still fortunate enough to be breathing. Both have considerable work ahead of them – and both of them can still lead productive lives in deep, abiding service to a community with needs. These two young men from Western Pennsylvania are alleged to have crossed paths at a party late Saturday night. At the end of the party, Mr. Longmire is alleged to have shot Mr. Pope four times. Mr. Pope survived. Reports are that Mr. Longmire wanted to secure a ride home for a friend, but was rejected by Mr. Pope and his friends. What started out (possibly) as a good-faith effort to lend comfort erupted into something far different. I heard about this story because it was headlining on ESPN. You see, Mr. Pope is a top basketball prospect for the University of New Mexico. He was visited by his coach, Reggie Theus, today. Theus and his staff stopped off in Pittsburgh, en route to Albuquerque from Atlanta. It’s not exactly on the way, but this was no recruiting stop.

Reports are that Mr. Longmire turned himself in to the police. It’s a good thing. He will likely be incarcerated for some time now. If that is the case, has some serious reckoning to do. The charges are serious. The loss of life is a serious thing – and any actions that imperil human life warrant our collective attention. Mr. Pope will have to endure an extensive physical rehabilitation to recover from four bullet wounds. He still has his youth. He is not a 40 or 50-year old father of five (they, too, are killed by youth in America’s rough and tumble streets). He has his life – if not all of his health and he is blessed. Both of these young men still have much to live for because doing the right thing is a choice. Their lives are a long way from over.

To this day, I’ve never had anyone except police officers draw a gun on me. They were doing their level best to intimidate. I was doing my best to not give in and not give a phuk. It turned out ok. They were subjected to disciplinary hearings and an official censure. I maintained my poise and dignity in the face of the ugliest of devils. It’s cases like this one, however, that have me (at the tender age of 38) weighing the future of youth across the nation. I understand that things happen – but lessons don’t seem to be learned. I read about incidents like this – and my mind immediately goes to Chicago and rising star Benji Wilson. It was over two decades ago – but for his family and friends and many, many people in that city, it’s all day, every day; every time the DePaul’s team takes the court, every time they see Mark Aguirre or Terry Cummings or Rod Strickland or even Joey Meyer. I think of Quentin Richardson who has lost two brothers to homicide on the streets of Chicago.

Herb Pope may not know how truly lucky he is, but the funny thing about life is that his coach, Reggie Theus, played for the Chicago Bulls in the 1980’s and he surely remembers all of this as vividly as if it were yesterday. Perhaps it was the memory of Benji Wilson that pushed Coach Theus to fly to Pittsburgh. I hope his memories are clear and his storytelling keen. The lives of many young people may depend on it.

herb_pope1.jpg

Why no mug shot of Mr. Longmire? I don’t know his story yet. And besides, someone still has baby pictures of him. And that’s only half of the hard part because when bullets don’t get dodged, that’s about all that’s left – and those pictures are sad consolation for the loss of a child.

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