How do we measure the loss of two innocent lives?
The West Virginia heart wails for brothers Carl and Garrick Hopkins, who were shot and killed in Barboursville by Rodney Black, who is white. The brothers were walking around land they recently purchased.
Black thought the land was his. It was not, it belonged to the Garrick brothers, Carl, 61, of Oak Hill, and Garrick, 60, of Milton.
According to the criminal complaint cited in news reports, Black said he saw the men, who were African-American, "shaking the door on his toolshed." The toolshed contained no valuables. Black shot and killed them with a rifle from his upstairs window, without speaking or warning. He then called 911 and never went outside to check on the men or give any first aid assistance, according to detectives.
Police later found 54 firearms in Black's home, including handguns, shotguns, rifles, muzzleloaders and ammunition that he had apparently legally purchased, according to reports.
According to The New York Daily News, "police are baffled as to why he [Rodney Black] chose such a drastic measure to preserve something of no value to him."
According to Sherriff Tom McComas and written statement from the Cabell County Prosecutor's Office and the Public Defender's Office, "race was not an issue."
I find this claim difficult to support. I have yet to read any evidence supported in the public record as to why this crime did not involve race. Until such evidence is produced and substantiated, Black should be charged with a hate crime, in addition to the two counts of first-degree murder he is already charged with.
"This is textbook racism," Dr. Jason Johnson, a frequent MSNBC commentator on race told The Grio. "The stories go on and on," writes the commentator, citing numerous cases where black Americans are innocently shot during daily life and then it is reported that race was not a factor. "Clearly there are some Americans who believe it is open season to shoot and kill black people," he writes.
In her 2012 novel "Home," Nobel-Prize winning author Toni Morrison writes about a black man named Frank Money who returns to 1950s America after serving in the war to find that America has abandoned him. The sad story follows him as he walks homeless for a while, place to place, searching for a home.
One point the author underscores is how, metaphorically, even though he may have a home at some points, Frank Money feels homeless because of the racism that confronts him at every doorstep, and how, even in his own home he is not free from harassment. He cannot just Be. And so, too, two of our West Virginia brothers could not look at land they had recently purchased on which they hoped to build a home, before their lives were tragically cut short by a man's gun-crazed bigotry and ignorance.
"Sometimes, a tragedy is so senseless as to be unexplainable," wrote the Parkersburg News and Sentinel in an editorial titled "Senseless," on Feb. 4.
"We believe people have the right to defend themselves if they feel their lives, or the lives of family members are in danger," writes the News and Sentinel. "But people who believe that gun ownership gives them the right to shoot first in any situation and then ask questions are unqualified to own a weapon. Black was never in danger. If he did believe the men were trespassing, he should have called 911. The Second Amendment does not trump other amendments to the Constitution. The Hopkins brothers were exercising their own constitutional rights by being on property that Garrick Hopkins had legally purchased."
According to their joint obituary in the Beckley Register-Herald, Carl was a coal miner, carpenter, mason, truck driver, mechanic, building maintenance manager, mine equipment machinist and a member of the United Apostolic Faith Church of Beckley. He had a loving wife of 40 years, children and grandchildren.
Brother Garrick worked at Columbia Gas, was a coal miner, rouster, contractor and a member of the Second Baptist Church of Fayetteville. He, too, had a loving wife, children and grandchildren.
There are no words for this kind of brutality, but hopefully there is judicial justice in a life-sentence without parole for Rodney Black and talk about the significance of race.Kaufman, of Charleston, teaches at Mountaineer Montessori School.