I've been trying to digest the story I first heard yesterday or perhaps the day before about two homeless men bludgeoned to death in Albuquerque while they slept. Three teens, the youngest 15, have confessed to the crime and seem to be boasting that they have committed altogether fifty or more other attacks on the homeless in the last few months. Fifty or more.
Caveat: I don't know any more about this incident and the series of incidents that it seems to be part of than what has been in the news, and I've been shocked and appalled at what I've seen and heard, I really haven't wanted to follow it in any detail, so I suspect that a good deal of what I write about it here will be very incomplete and/or erroneous.
Fifty attacks in the last few months. Yes, there has been some mention made from time to time that this or that homeless wanderer has been attacked while he (generally it's a he) sleeps somewhere on the streets or in a vacant lot or wherever he can find a moment's rest, a little shelter. There have been stories of men or women run over by drivers seemingly looking for homeless wanderers to brutalize and kill. There have been stories or bludgeonings and frantic escapes. There have been so many stories of pain and misery and bloodshed.
Victims rarely report the crimes, they rarely go to the police, they're terrified of the police. They are terrified not solely because of the executions of the homeless which the police commit with impunity but because the police treat any homeless wanderer with routine contempt and violence; they are no protectors of the vulnerable. That's for Father Rusty at the St. Martin's homeless shelter. He'll get right on it.
The men who were killed over the weekend were called "Cowboy" and "Yazzie" according to reports, and they were from the Gallup area. Navajo. Not unusual for Indians to travel around, to live off the land, to get drunk and get by as best they can. Their friend, called "Skeets", was beaten up but survived and escaped and described the killers to police. Within a day, the boys, Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carillo, 16 and Gilbert Tafoya, 15, were rounded up. Police say they confessed and provided extensive details of their other attacks on the homeless in Albuquerque the past few months.
Almost as if they were boasting.
They were doing their part, no? To clean up the riff-raff, the vermin, the losers lower than them.
Doing their part.
The police want others who might have been victims of these boys to come forward and make reports, but the victims live in fear, fear of the police certainly, but also of a system that has no regard for them, no place for them, wherein they have no home and no voice. They will not go to the police willingly. So the police are doing what they call "outreach," by sending plainclothes detectives among the homeless -- "our homeless" they're being called by suddenly compassionate news outlets -- to conduct surreptitious surveillance and interviews, to try to further develop cases against these boys. It's not, in other words, on behalf of the homeless, it is on behalf of the system, and on behalf of the police themselves.
The authorities will get to the bottom of this!
Well, no. No they won't.
The system the authorities serve has no use for drunken Indians (for God's sake!) out of Gallup who somehow made their way to Albuquerque and died there with their skulls crushed by rogue youths out for a lark. Too bad, so sad. They are simply surplus, disposable -- and anybody would understand they were going to die anyway. There was no way the system was going to salvage them, so maybe it's better for them and for everyone that... they're gone now, to their reward in Heaven or wherever... human waste disposal took care of it.
Too bad for those three boys who will now have to live with the consequences of what they did for the rest of their lives -- or at least until they are 21, when they might, under other circumstances, be released from juvenile detention. In fact, we're told, they will be tried as adults and face adult consequences for murder most foul, and that might be some consolation, but for the fact that there are no doubt others who think like they do, and when the spirit moves them (what kind of dark spirits are afoot), they will go on their own killing sprees, disposal efforts, removals of the unwanted...
I can't say what motivated these boys to do what they say they did, but I do know that they, like all of us, are immersed in a culture of impunity, a culture in which crimes of this sort are committed by authority with complete impunity (as with, for example, the cases of James Boyd and Mary Hawkes in Albuquerque, and how many tens or hundreds or thousands of others all over the country?) Abuse and killing of the homeless by authority is hardly considered worth the time to discuss these days -- except as a caution to others not to get out of line, or it could happen to you. Yes, you.
The situation in Albuquerque has been highlighted since the execution of James Boyd in March, and the situation in Albuquerque is definitely bad, awful, appalling and all the other terms used to describe police misconduct in this country, but in actuality, the problem is nationwide and getting worse.
Police misconduct, murder, abuse and impunity has reached epidemic proportions, at least if you follow the news. There are stories at least every week of some horror committed under color of authority including numerous questionable killings. There are entire YouTube channels devoted to documenting police misconduct, and (primarily libertarian) think tanks have devoted whole sections of their operations to studies and reports of police misconduct. It's a cottage industry in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Statistics show somewhat less certainty that things are getting worse, but statistics can be manipulated to show pretty much anything. Statistics appear to show that overall murder rates have plummeted to nearly an all-time low, which may be part of why so many murders now seem to gain so much attention, whether committed under color of authority or just because. They are actually so rare, at least according to statistics, that murders almost command attention by their very rarity. Seems counter intuitive, but there you are.
Police killings and abuse may or may not be on the rise. It is hard to say because data is scattered. There is no comprehensive statistical data. From what is available, it appears that police killings of suspects and bystanders run about 500 a year, year in and year out, practically without change. But that figure may be low. Reports of abuse run into the thousands, tens of thousands, but it's hard to say whether it's worse over time. Those with some memory of the past will often say that things were once far worse than they are now...
Yet we are conditioned to believe that the situation we face today is the worst it has ever been... It's always bad and getting worse, unless we fight.
Nevertheless, murders like those committed over the weekend in Albuquerque tear at the conscience and the heart. It's not a matter of "why" -- it's a matter of such horrors happening at all, and it's a matter of the overall sense of powerlessness in the face of such monstrousness.
This is what millions of Americans feel, but also what millions, perhaps billions, of people around the world feel in the face of the mounting cruelty of the world as it is and is becoming, and the blank-faced disinterest of those in power to do anything about it.
Powerlessness that's being countered to an extent, even on the mean streets of Albuquerque, by notions of common interest, mutual aid, concern. No only are the police doing "Outreach to Our Homeless," so are the many, many, many agencies and offices set up to help.
Even the frequently absent mayor of Albuquerque says "we must do more."
Yes, do more. But understand, when authority is allowed to behave with impunity toward those who... don't fit, let's say, whatever standards of behavior or appearance that are required at any given moment, is it any wonder boys like those who confessed to the murders of these homeless men do what they do?
The problem starts at the top, not the bottom. Change the culture at the top, and what happens below changes too.