Fresno's Killing Rampage: A Pastor's Response
A crazed gunman killed three people in downtown Fresno yesterday. Sadly, murder isn't a rare occurrence in Fresno or in most big cities across our nation. Tuesday's tragic killing made world news, however, both because there were multiple victims and because the shooter, an African-American man, was targeting white men.
Here are some important things to know and to remember about this tragedy:
1. Take time NOW to tell people how much you care. No one is ever 100% safe. I don't say this to make you cower in fear. Just realize the fragility of life. Kiss your spouse when you say goodbye. Hug your kids or your parents as much as you can. Don't leave conflicts unresolved for long. There just are no guarantees in life. Cherish the relationships you have, and let people know how much you appreciate them.
2. Hate-filled rhetoric springs forth in hate-filled actions. People who stir up trouble ought to face some consequence for filling people’s minds with hate. We've seen it far too often. Nation of Islam. White supremacists. ISIS. Radical BLM leaders. So on and so forth. When people spew hate for a particular race or class or religion, it poisons the minds of those who live it and breathe it. Throw in some mental illness or a violent background and suddenly you have a person capable of horrific evil. Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church and executed 9 blacks. He'd been filled with hate for black people. Omar Mateen wanted to kills gays, so he went to an Orlando LGBT nightclub and killed 49 people. Micah Johnson hated cops, so he used a high-powered rifle to murder five police officers in Dallas. Yesterday's killer in Fresno had been filled with hatred toward whites. Those who preach such hate ought to face some kind of consequence for poisoning the minds of those who turn rhetoric into unspeakable acts of terror.
3. This had nothing to do with religion. The media is reporting the fact that the Fresno murderer shouted, "Allahu akhbar." Chief Jerry Dyer said very clearly, however, that this was not said during the shootings but during the arrest. He went on to say that this had nothing to do with religion but with race. The perpetrator hated white people. Some leaders from Fresno's Muslim community quickly condemned the shooter’s actions. I know Reza Nekumanesh, the leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, and I appreciate his quick statement of condemnation for the shooter and solidarity with the victims. We all stand in shock and horror over what happened.
4. Fresno's law enforcement community are incredibly good at their jobs. Starting with Chief Dyer on down, Fresno has some of the most professional and compassionate peace officers in the country. Their response to yesterday's shooting was unbelievably swift. Who knows how many other shots this crazed person would have gotten off if not for their rapid reaction! You could also tell from Chief Dyer's comments that they were prepared for this kind of situation. We owe a great debt to these folks who lay it on the line each day.
5. I understand why some folks choose to conceal carry. When you experience events like this, it's not hard to see why you might want to arm yourself. It just takes one deranged shooter roaming the streets to make you think twice about your safety. Personally, I don't choose this path. I think these things happen so fast that folks like me who don't handle guns for a living just couldn't react quickly enough to make a difference. And even if we did, there's a fair chance we might injure ourselves or someone else in the process. But I get it if you feel the need to carry a concealed weapon. Things like this make us all uneasy.
6. Pray for the victims' families AND the perpetrator's family. We all know how important it is to support those who have lost a loved one so tragically. Please pray for them. If you have an ability to help in some concrete way, please do so. Lost in this desire to help, though, is the fact that the perpetrator's family is also suffering. While it's sometimes true that they were complicit in "creating a monster," they aren't the ones who pulled the trigger. The shame and pain of this tragedy are already an enormous punishment for them. Pray for them as well. I'll never forget the story of the Amish school-children who were massacred by Charlie Roberts in 2005. If you don't already know about it, read the amazing story of love from the victims' families for the killer's family. It speaks volumes about God's love and forgiveness. Ultimately, the Christian belief is that goodness, mercy and love shine most vividly in the face of death, suffering and brokenness. So be Jesus in all that you do.