Seven-year-old shot and (not) killed!

MONDAY, MAY 3, 2021

Friedersdorf fights Storyline: A very unfortunate news report appears in this morning's Washington Post.

In print editions, the news report begins as shown. We include the principal headline:

Girl shot in D.C. was visiting family

Her mother had told 7-year-old Reagan Grimes she couldn’t go to the playground because it was too far from the residence they were visiting in Northeast Washington.

Dashawn Grimes wanted to keep her daughter in eyesight.

So Saturday evening, she let Reagan play on a porch in front of an apartment deep in a courtyard off Jay Street, where she could watch her while grilling hot dogs for dinner.

Reagan, a second-grader visiting from Maryland, rushed inside and excitedly announced, “I made a new best friend.” She then ran back out into the warm Saturday evening, dressed in a pink top and jeans, as gunfire erupted.

Reagan was struck in the chest by a bullet shortly before 7 p.m. and taken to a hospital in critical condition, police said. Grimes said the bullet passed through her daughter’s body, missing major organs.

That's how the news report began. It continues at length from there.

Luckily, this little girl wasn't shot and killed. She's expected to make a full recovery, to the extent that there is such a thing.

Also, she wasn't shot by a police officer. She was apparently struck by gunfire from a passing white car.

For those reasons, this shooting incident isn't going to rate a lot of attention. That's where Conor Friedersdorf's new report comes in.

Friedersdorf doesn't write from Storyline and he doesn't recycle script. He doesn't engage in those behaviors at The Atlantic.

His new report concerns the way the public may be getting misinformed and misled about the shooting deaths of children and teens. Specifically, his pair of headlines say this: 

The Numbers Tell a Different Story About Police Killings of Minors
Exaggerated narratives could yield misguided policy responses—which would endanger many more kids.

Much longer story short: 

Friedersdorf says the public is being misinformed by the way our mainstream news orgs cover fatal shootings by police—especially fatal shootings of minors.

In Friedersdorf's rendering, our news orgs place gigantic stress on these rare events. In the process, they ignore the voluminous other ways children and teens get killed. 

For the record, everyone knows why our news orgs are currently doing this:

They're working from (cartoonized) Storyline. At present, they're especially drawn to Storyline in which white police officers shoot and kill black minors. No other dead minors need apply!

Friedersdorf is perhaps a bit too polite to say such things. But after he describes a few cases in which minors were shot and killed by police officers, here is a but of his nugget:

FRIEDERSDORF (5/2/21): All of these cases are tragedies. All raise the question of what, if anything, adults should have done to prevent them. But most news coverage of these killings lacks vital context to inform good answers. Many Americans are misinformed about the dimensions of this problem––and are prone to accept disturbing but false narratives, such as that police officers in America hunt and kill Black children, or radical remedies, such as defunding or abolishing the police in the name of protecting children. The wrong solutions might well result in the deaths of more children from causes other than police killings.

"Many Americans are misinformed about the dimensions of this problem?" Translating from Friedersdorf's lengthy piece, many people may be getting the impression—due to selective press coverage—that black kids are getting shot and killed by police all the time.

In fact, these shooting deaths are quite rare, Friedersdorf rudely says. Along the way, he offers these data about actual underage deaths:

FRIEDERSDORF: [D]ata show that police shootings are not among the most frequent causes of death for children, even setting aside medical conditions such as cancer. In 2016, the most recent year for which I could find detailed statistics, 16 minors were shot and killed by police. These were among the other causes of death for people under 18:

Gun homicides: 1,865

Gun suicides: 1,102  

Gun accidents: 126 

Sixteen fatal shootings by police. Almost two thousand fatal shootings by others—for example, by the type of person who shot, and luckily didn't kill, that 7-year-old in D.C.

At present, major media here in Our Town love the (cartoonized) Storyline in which young people get shot and killed by police officers. 

(Full disclosure: They only discuss such shooting deaths if the decedent is black. Here's an astonishing but obvious fact—almost no one else need apply.)

It's hard to find the words for such selective reporting. Evil, ugly, stupid, banal? All such terms might apply.

What is especially ugly is the way Our Town's big stars skip past a certain type of shooting—the type in which a 7-year-old who just made a best friend gets shot as a car passes by.

What can police departments do to stop the high volume of such fatal and non-fatal  shootings? Based on the types of discussions they conduct, Our Town's biggest stars don't care.

Here in Our Town, no one seems to care about such silly questions as that. Is it possible that Our Town's biggest stars are sunk in a type of banality? Are they banal all the way down? Is their universe all Storyline?

Also in this morning's Post: The following letter also appears in this morning's Post. It concerns the fatal shooting in 2017 of a young man named Bijan Ghaisar:

LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (5/3/21): Regarding the April 24 Metro article “Police killing moves to federal court”:

The Justice Department is looking into several police departments because of recent shootings of Black people and the departments’ practices. Why are officials not looking into the U.S. Park Police? Why has it taken so long for this case to be resolved? 

Bijan Ghaisar’s car was rear-ended, and he left the scene. He was killed for this. At no point were the officers who shot him in danger. It appears they were just angry because he would not stay put after he was stopped. Why is no one protesting for Ghaisar or adding his name to the long list of people shot by police over traffic infractions?

Why are no news orgs doing such things, even after several years in which the Washington Post has doggedly covered this case?

Everybody understands why! There's zero mystery here.

People do end up badly misinformed when big news orgs behave in such ways. As a courtesy, we'd attribute this behavior in Our Town to the banality of tribal behavior, to Storyline all the way down.


  1. "In Friedersdorf's rendering, our news orgs place gigantic stress on these rare events. In the process, they ignore the voluminous other ways children and teens get killed."

    I see no evidence whatsoever that the press fails to cover the other ways children and teens get killed.

  2. Somerby no doubt wants us to think that the press should cover police killings of teens less. No one has ever said that police shootings of teens are the main cause of teen deaths. We have been saying that they shouldn't occur so frequently, especially when unarmed teens are shot by cops.

    1. No, Somerby is saying that they are not occurring as much as the media would like to believe.

    2. The media has been citing statistics, so yes, they are happening as often as the media reports. It is the incidence of white killings that is underestimated by the press because they typically do not report racial statistics for such a killing, since it is not seen as the result of police bias.

  3. I've been saying this for a long time in some of my posts, but the media doesn't care to report the truth.
    According to FBI statistics in 2018, 2900 blacks were killed by violence. In over 2600 of those cases, the offender was black.
    In Chicago where I live, blacks are shooting blacks on a daily basis, but no one protests unless the police were involved.

    1. There is a difference between ongoing crime and racism. It matters WHY people are shot. Gang violence in Chicago explains most of the shootings. That doesn't mean that police should be shooting black people with impunity, especially those who are unarmed and NOT engaged in any criminal activity.

      This argument, blacks kill each other so why should anyone care when a cop kills them, is offensive and racist itself.

    2. Chicago is an incredibly racist city.

    3. Anonymouse 3:13pm, do you know the race of the person who shot this little girl, or are you assuming the shooter is black because this story never made cable prime time?

    4. Chicago is also a very segregated city. The little girl who was shot is black. It seems likely the shooters in the drive-by were black and that the shooting was gang related.

    5. The police are not shooting black people with impunity. Black people are shooting black people with impunity and no one cares, least of all the black community.
      Racism doesn't make people shoot each other.

    6. It is racist, in my opinion, to say that the black community doesn't care about black deaths. Black community activists, churches and former gang members are very active in trying to reduce violence in black communities. Gang violence is largely drug related and the main consumers of drugs in our country are white. Black people use drugs too, but there are fewer of them, so white people are perpetuating a problem that largely affects the black community. The other main factor in black crime is poverty and that is supported by structural racism. I think you need a remedial sociology course.

    7. 4:39,
      Be happy you weren't alive at the beginning of this century. People were going on and on about Islamic terrorism, even though the South on South murder rate was through the roof.

    8. If you guys insist on shifting the focus away from police abuse of power to black homicides, I will start posting domestic violence statistics. THERE is a crime that no one ever wants to talk about and that dwarfs black-on-black crime too. And as large as black-on-black crime is, white-on-white crimes is larger (because there are more white people committing crimes).

      The main difference is that police are not supposed to be killing unarmed people whereas self-defense shootings in the course of catching criminals are considered legitimate.

      I might accept that conservatives care more about black-on-black crime than black communities do, if I really thought that conservatives care about the victims. I think they use this as a deflection from any focus on police malfeasance.

  4. From Digby's Hullabaloo:

    "Of course, it didn’t take long for Fox to gin up an outrage cycle off of one paragraph of a digital travel write-up. Beginning with an article on Fox Business’ digital site, which said the new ride was “prompting backlash” while citing only the SFGate piece, the network mentioned the “canceling” of Snow White nine times on Fox News and five additional times on the Fox Business Network through mid-Monday morning."

    Not only does Fox not mention any cops killing teens or older people, unarmed or not, but it wastes huge amounts of time trying to gin up outrage over so-called cancel culture, manufacturing incidents out of whole cloth.

    Somerby's attempt to switch emphasis from racist cops killing unarmed black people over to the killing of white people, black on black crime, and child killings, as if black lives only matter after everyone else has been reported (get in line, you line black line-crashers!), is certainly less effective than serving up distracting nonsense that didn't even happen, the way Fox does daily.

    Somerby wants to portray all liberals as hypocrites if we don't seem to care ever so much about white teens who are shot, even though those instances have nothing to do with ending police racism in our century. Meanwhile, Somerby doesn't give a damn about anyone who gets shot, except as a means of embarrassing liberals and the press. Even a 7-year-old girl is just a means of manipulating liberal feeling and undermining BLM and associated attempts to examine bias in policing.

  5. Friedersdorf gives it away when he says that many accept the false narrative that police officers in America “hunt down and kill black children.” That is his version of a false narrative. There is no widely accepted narrative that police hunt down black children. There is no need to spin his story this way, By focusing on the killing of minors Friedersdorf purposely excludes the majority of victims in the BLM movement. It gives him better statistics. Finally, any illegal activity that is common in the inner city cannot be used as a whatabout argument that police behavior is over scrutinized. If a subset of police were found to commonly use crack cocaine, the headline scrutiny of such behavior would not be nullified by more frequent inner city crack cocaine use. In another realm Friedersdorf would argue that the Catholic priest pedophile scandal was overblown by the media because there are many more pedophiles to be found elsewhere in this country.

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  7. Saying that most of the deaths of black people by gang violence is an excuse. What are people trying to do about it? Nothing. In Chicago we had a 13 and 14 year old shot in a drive by. Now why did someone specifically want to shoot them?
    There needs to be a halt in single people having kids. This is not a constructive environment in which to raise children properly. And so it goes....