More signs of our deterioration

NBC News:

At least 17 people were dead after a 19-year-old former student opened fire at a South Florida high school on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

The suspect was identified as Nikolaus Cruz, a former student who had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland for disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. He said at least 14 other people were injured in addition to the 17 people killed.

The Washington Post adds:

He had been getting treatment at a mental health clinic and then stopped. He was expelled from school for discipline problems. Many of his acquaintances had cut ties in part because of his strange Instagram posts and reports that he liked shooting animals. His father died a few years ago. His mother, reportedly the only person with whom he was close, died around Thanksgiving.

Finally, Nikolas Cruz, 19, had a fascination with guns. …

“Weird” was the word students had used for Cruz since middle school. And he seemed to only be getting weirder, they said.

At first “it was nothing alarming,” said Dakota Mutchler, who went to middle school with Cruz. There was something “a little off about him,” said the 17-year-old, but that was it — for a while.

Then, as Cruz transitioned into high school, he “started progressively getting a little more weird,” Mutchler told The Washington Post. Cruz, he said, was selling knives out of a lunchbox, posting on Instagram about guns and killing animals, and eventually “going after one of my friends, threatening her.” …

Neighbors told the [Fort Lauderdale] Sun-Sentinel that police were called out repeatedly to deal with complaints about Cruz. Shelby Speno said he was seen shooting at chickens owned by a resident. Malcolm Roxburgh told the Sun-Sentinel that Cruz took a dislike to the pigs kept as pets by another family. “He sent over his dog … to try to attack them.” …

Years earlier and in recent months, however, young people acquainted with Cruz, like Mutchler, had seen enough to disturb them.

Joshua Charo, 16, a former classmate during their freshman year, told the Miami Herald that all Cruz would “talk about is guns, knives and hunting.” While Charo said Cruz joined the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps as a freshman, he continued to be “into some weird stuff,” like shooting rats with a BB gun.

Drew Fairchild, also a classmate during Cruz’s freshman year, agreed. “He used to have weird, random outbursts,” he told the Herald, “cursing at teachers. He was a troubled kid.”

He was suspended from Stoneman Douglas for fighting, Charo told the Herald, and because he was found with bullets in his backpack. …

An Instagram account that appeared to belong to the suspect showed several photos of guns. And one appeared to show a gun’s holographic laser sight pointed at a neighborhood street. A second showed at least six rifles and handguns laid out on a bed with the caption “arsenal.” Other pictures showed a box of large-caliber rounds with the caption “cost me $30.” One of the most disturbing appeared to show a dead frog’s bloodied corpse. Most of the photos were posted July 2017.

About this and every mass shooting, read this and this.

The other obscenity of this week happened in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass:

Of the many things Chicago should sear into its memory from Tuesday, one was this:

That long procession of police cars, blue lights flashing, trailing the ambulance carrying the body of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer from Northwestern Memorial Hospital to the morgue.

Chicago is a city of pain.

Dozens and dozens of squad vehicles joined the procession, and dozens of police officers stood to the side and saluted as the procession passed, and more mounted police units lined up and saluted in the darkening late afternoon.

The police were there for the commander, one of their own.

City Hall will tell you that downtown Chicago is safe and that yes, things happen, but if you think of it in terms of statistics, it’s safe.

But what happened downtown Tuesday, at the Thompson Center — just across the street from Chicago’s City Hall — is just the kind of thing that shakes people’s sense of safety.

Chicago police commanders aren’t supposed to be shot to death, not there, not at the heart of city business and politics.

Gunfire isn’t supposed to happen just a stone’s throw from City Hall. But it happened, and passers-by were frightened and they screamed and heard shouting and a few saw the blood.

Bauer, 53, husband and father, a 31-year-veteran of the Chicago Police Department and commander of the Near North District, was shot while confronting a robbery suspect.

Now comes the politics, the finger-pointing, and the political angles taken to benefit one side or another, none of them benefiting the police. Included on this list will be the suspect’s criminal record, whether he was treated leniently, how he got the gun. All of it will come out.

But right now I’m thinking of the cops, like one I talked to just as the news about Bauer was breaking. I’ll call him Joe.

Retired now, he spent his life as the real police — meaning he wasn’t a politician or some house cat or a climber connected to an alderman. He put his hands on people, making arrests in Chicago.

He has two sons on the police force and the boys are in action spots, not soft spots. They’re not guarding City Hall.

“We’re just sitting here all together, just watching the news, and I keep telling them to be careful, that you never know, that any day something like this can happen” Joe said. “I always wonder if it sinks in. You know they understand, but do they get it? Or do they think it won’t happen to them?”

The rest of us who don’t know the life, we look at police as men and women who make arrests, the people who put muscle behind the laws, or as human actors leveraged in political dramas about excessive police force.

But it wouldn’t hurt us to think of them as somebody’s son or daughter, because they are that, too.

“All I want is for my sons to come home after their shift,” said Joe. “Do people ever think of that? They say they think of it, and they’re thinking of it now, but do they really think it, say a month from now? I think of it.”

Another thing Chicago might want to remember on this day of pain was the police radio chatter, reported in the papers, when the suspect was being chased downtown.

“Don’t anybody get hurt,” warned an officer chasing the suspect. “We just wanted to do a street stop on him and he took off on me.”

Don’t anybody get hurt.

That was downtown. That wasn’t on the West Side or South Side.

So the suspect ran and Bauer, who had heard the call on his radio, recognized him and ran after him.

And not long after that, the commander was dead.

Choking back tears, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson walked to the microphones, cops behind him, and made a statement.

“Cmdr. Bauer was shot multiple times,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, Cmdr. Bauer passed away. The offender is in custody. The weapon is recovered. I just ask the citizens of this city to keep the Bauer family in their prayers. I’ve been meeting with his wife and daughter. It is a difficult day for us. But we’ll get through it.”

In order to live our lives, we choose to become numb to almost everything. We become numb to Chicago’s river of violence that for years has been claiming so many lives in the gang wars. We’re become numb to the bleating of politicians with no answers.

We’ve become numb to all of it.

That’s what happens in a city of pain. You grow numb.

About Bauer and his killer, the Tribune’s Annie Sweeney reports:

Just four months ago, Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer didn’t mince words when he spoke about his frustrations that career offenders weren’t facing stiffer consequences in court.

“We’re not talking about the guy that stole a loaf of bread from the store to feed his family,” Bauer told the Loop North News. “We’re talking about career robbers, burglars, drug dealers. These are all crimes against the community. They need to be off the street.”

He took exception to Cook County’s push to set more affordable bails for defendants as part of an effort to reduce the population in the jail.

“Maybe I’m jaded,” he said. “But I don’t think that is anything to be proud of.”

On Tuesday, Bauer was fatally shot in the Loop by a four-time felon who had drawn the suspicion of tactical teams in the busy downtown area, police said. Officers tried to stop the man a few blocks from the Thompson Center, but he took off running, according to radio traffic of the incident.

Bauer encountered him at the Thompson Center, where a physical struggle resulted at a stairwell outside the government building, Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Bauer was found by other officers. The suspect was taken into custody.

As a four-time felon Bauer’s alleged shooter committed another crime by possessing a gun. And neither he nor Cruz should have been out on the streets.

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