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Killing for Stuff


The Oregon mall shooting’s been the “top” story most of the day (Wednesday) at Google News, dirty dancing and dipping with the fiscal cliffhanger.

Steven Forsyth and Cindy Yuille are dead.  Kristina Shevchenko, a high school student, is hospitalized, in serious condition.  The killer, Jason Tyler Roberts, committed suicide.

I wasn’t going to write about this.  I’d started another article.  One about an email I received from a friend, a man who’s talked with me about his son and only child.  This in his subject line:  OUR SON’S A SOLDIER.

I responded that I’m not happy about the news.  Sad, in fact.  And told him he knows why.  He’s heard me.  He’s sat in my family room, listened to my run-ons.

He sent another email—a statement of his hope that his son never has to take the life of another, unless in self-defense.  I thought about this.  That if his son ever has to take a life, he hopes it will be in self-defense.

Killing someone only in self-defense, killing a man or woman who is defending his or her country from U.S. invasion, Empire.

So, I was going to make that my theme.  Until, until….  Um, maybe there is a theme.  This self-defense. Defense of some thing.  Or an offense.  Perhaps, both.

What was Jason Tyler Roberts defending in Portland?

It’s Thursday now, and I just hit Google News.  This report no longer holds the number-one position, but there’s an ABC article on the page.  Jason Roberts wanted to travel.  And on his Facebook page, he’d posted:  “I’m the kind of person that is going to do what I want.  There’s no reason for another person to tell you what to do, I’m the conductor of my choo choo train.”

Then, there’s that story receiving little attention—the death of the 27-year-old mother of two who was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, Louis Campbell, working as a security guard in Houston.

Her name:  Shelly Frey.  And she was suspected of shoplifting.  Taking STUFF from the crime scene known as Walmart.

The gun-wielding Campbell pursed Frey, and the women who accompanied her, to the store’s parking lot, opening the door of their vehicle. As the car moved forward, Campbell shot Frey in the neck.

Two children were in that car.

The two killed at the “maul” have been described as caring and having a zest for life.

Probably, Shelly Frey was caring, had this zest, as well.  According to her father Sheldon Frey, “Shelly was the perfect mom, perfect friend, perfect daughter,” this daughter who’d moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina, for a new start with her children, one of whom is a two-year-old with sickle cell anemia.

Was Frey acting in self-defense when she allegedly shoplifted?

Was Campbell acting in self-defense—an  offense, in self-defense?  How does he feel, knowing he’s killed another human being?

What about Roberts?  His girlfriend, Hannah Sansburn, said he was happy and liked to joke, but had changed suddenly, conducting his “choo choo” to a station of violence.

And my friend’s son, a graduate of basic training, a soldier.  Will he kill?  And if he does, please let it be in self-defense. Defense of mighty righteousness.

At the mall, a cliff, a Walmart parking lot, in countries targeted by capitalist greed.  All war zones.  Killing for stuff.  Two of the stories, top news.  The other two, not so much.

Missy Beattie is in Baltimore.  Email:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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