I’ve spent some time traveling in Connecticut and have some friends there. The massacre carried out in the Village of Sandy Hook, City of Newtown, County of Fairfield is certainly a national tragedy, but in comparison to what goes on every day in a city like the State Capital of Hartford, one has to ask why isn’t every day life in urban ghettoes and barrios a topic of constant national attention?
The City of Newtown, founded in 1705, and the Village of Sandy Hook within it, are by any standard, opulent geographical areas. According to Wikipedia, in Newtown, by 2010 Census figures:
The racial makeup of the town was 95.14% White, 1.75% Black or African American, 0.14% Native American, 1.40% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.64% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.36% of the population…..
The median income for a household in the town was $90,193, and the median income for a family was $99,192 (these figures had risen to $101,937 and $119,175 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $68,965 versus $42,217 for females. The per capita income for the town was $37,786. About 2.2% of families and 3.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.0% of those under age 18 and 3.9% of those age 65 or over.
For comparison, of the highest per capita incomes by American counties, California’s Marin County is number one at $44,962. According to the New York Daily News, the Sandy Hills shooter, Adam “Lanza was living with his devoted mother, Nancy, in the family’s four-bedroom, 3,100-square-foot estate…. Nancy Lanza divorced Adam’s father, Peter, in 2008. Peter Lanza, now a vice president of taxes for GE Energy Financial Services, agreed to annual alimony payments that started at $240,000 and would have reached $298,800 in 2015.”
Now take Connecticut’s state capital, Hartford. By Wikipedia:
The racial makeup of the city was 29.8% white, 38.7% African American or black, 0.6% Native American, 2.8% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 23.9 from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. 43.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino, chiefly of Puerto Rican origin. Non-Hispanic Whites were 15.8% of the population in 2010, down from 63.9% in 1970….
With 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line, Hartford’s rate of poverty is second in the United States only to Brownsville, Texas….The per capita income for the city was $13,428.
Hartford is second in New England for its Puerto Rican origin population after Holyoke Massachusetts.
A Hartford blogger on crime writes poignantly about day to day conditions in that City:
“I lived in Hartford for many years, once in an apartment near Hartford Hospital, also an apartment just off of Park Street. My advice to anyone wanting to travel here is to stay away. 37 years ago when I used to work in downtown Hartford I was robbed while waiting to take the bus home from just in front of the Old State House which is downtown Hartford. I was followed home by a robber when I went to the drug store on Farmington Ave. but I managed to get away, get into the condo building before he could rob me. I lived off of Farmington Avenue in a building called The Willoughby. Back then it was apartments, but now it is condominiums. The area was bad back then but is much worse now, drug dealers breaking into the condominium building, hookers doing tricks on the steps inside the building. It’s such a shame. I don’t understand why the police are not out in full force cleaning up these areas. I’m sure years ago Hartford was a very nice place to live. Years ago I would drive to the North end with my husband to go to a Jamaican bakery but no longer. That area was dangerous back then, but with all the crack heads now, much much worse. My advice to you, if you do decide to visit any part of Hartford, take pepper spray with you. The Mark Twain house is worth a visit, also the Wadsworth Atheneum art gallery. But if you are a woman, do not carry a pocketbook, keep your money hidden.”–Woman, Resident of Hartford for 37 years, Age 58, May 15, 2012
The 2012 projections for crime in Hartford are (Projected Data) Incidents: Aggravated Assault 987, Arson 48, Burglary 852, Forcible Rape 46, Larceny and Theft 3,389, Motor Vehicle Theft 720, Murder and Manslaughter 30, Robbery 461, Crime Rate (Total Incidents) 6,450; Property Crime 4,965; Violent Crime 1,523.
In 2010, Hartford ranked 19th in the United States’ annual national crime rankings, (below the 200.00 rating.) It had the second highest crime rate in Connecticut, behind New Haven.
So the question we need to be asking, again, is why does America routinely ignore the crime rates that oppress the poor most of all and get horrified when Middle America and crime that affects the upper crust of society intrigues the media and gets the attention of government?
Behind the Scenes Implications of the Murders
Whenever one of these genuinely horrific incidents occurs, I get on the phone with a friend who’s a national crime reporter for a major media outlet because I know she’s about to catch the next plane to the site and will need logistical and behind the scenes investigative resources to help her find the right people to interview and background facts to flesh out the story. Here’re some of the weird facts that I encountered in my work.
Early on Connecticut police authorities reported that it was Ryan Lanza who was the shooter and that he lived in Hoboken, New Jersey. This was flat out wrong and two different explanations for why this was put out have emerged. First it was reported that the shooter, 20 year old Adam Lanza, had 24 year old Ryan Lanza’s identification on him when he was found dead at the scene. The second story was that somebody in the police administration had accidentally transposed the names Ryan and Adam in their information release. Additionally there were claims that a now taken down Facebook page for Ryan Lanza was a hoax….but if it was a hoax, it was an incredibly elaborate hoax as I will explain, but first, let’s look at the implications of the first issue.
If Adam Lanza was carrying brother Ryan’s identification one can theorize that one of his motives was to really shaft his older brother as the icing on the cake following the murder of his mother and everybody else at his old elementary school. Even after his own death he’d planned to drive his brother nuts by casting blame on Ryan. If the now taken down Facebook page was a hoax whoever created it knew the key details very quickly that Ryan Lanza was living in Hoboken and that he was from Newtown. Additionally, that FB page had been created as listed on the FB Timeline on October 18, 2012. How long had this hoax been in the works and how could it have been anticipated since at least October.
This purported “hoax” page had some interesting comments on it and when I looked at it, it had already garnered 40 friends, one of whom (female) showed herself nude and masturbating in her profile photo and another of whom (male) used the United Farm Worker Eagle Flag as his profile photo. The comments posted by the page owner included:
“the government has been aware of my revolutionary speeches.. i DIDNT DO IT!!!!”
“what is going on!! !!! i was framed!! i didnt do it!!!”
It also featured a really strange YouTube video link that showed the purported Ryan Lanza with what appears to be a submachine gun denouncing gun violence by two guys in Michigan who’d supposedly killed each other because they disagreed about the taste of Kool Aid.
Now a Ryan Lanza FB page with a substantially different picture which appeared to have been created on July 9, 2006, also stated that he is from Newtown and now lives in Hoboken: http://www.facebook.com/rlanza
If indeed the Connecticut State Police accidentally transposed the names Adam and Ryan in their press release, which would naturally cause Ryan Lanza to freak out completely as if the death of his mother and brother was not enough, the average person would see it as egregious and horrendous. In civil terms it could be categorized as “Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.” But does somebody get to sue a police department for negligence? All states and the federal government use a myriad of immunity laws and legal minefields to prevent people from seeing their day in court.
Federal Tort Claim Act
In California for example, most people think that there’s a very simple one or two year “statute of limitations” in which you have to file suit against a government agency. Most people and all too frequently not even some lawyers understand the laws that require the filing of a claim under the California Tort Claims Act (Section 910 Government Code et seq) within six months of the incident they’re suing over. It’s gets even weirder if you’ve been falsely charged with a crime, because you still have to file within six months but you’re not allowed to sue until after the end of the criminal case, so you run the risk of pissing off the police and making them file a charge on a case that they would just as soon let you go on (because they know or suspect their officer was out of line in the first place). If you or your criminal defense attorney (criminal defense attorneys frequently don’t know about the tort claim requirement because suing is not their job, getting you off the criminal complaint is) didn’t file the tort claim and then you get exonerated a year later, you’re screwed and can’t sue.
For an idea of the complexity of liability and immunity laws that people will face in Connecticut, see http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/rpt/2011-R-0076.htm.
Does the situation get any more convoluted, complicated and mondo bizarro? Well actually it does.
What causes incidents like this? According to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who spoke of the incident on Fox News, the First Amendment’s separation of church and state clause appears to be the problem as opposed to the conflict between the Second Amendment and the non-enforcement of the right to safety which is incorporated or at least implied in many state constitutions:
NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): You know, inevitably people ask after tragedies like this, how could God let this happen?
HUCKABEE: Well, you know, it’s an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability? That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us. But one day, we will stand before a Holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.
Say what? If Huckabee was black, this would definitely be a Negro Please type moment. If he was Chicano, he would immediately be labeled as a Pendejo of the worst sort. If he was Afro-Latino, he’d have to be designated as a P.I.A.M.F., a Pendejo Ignorant Ass Mother Fucker because the level of stupidity is so low that it merits a cross-cultural definition of idiocy.
So there you have it. Does America begin a debate on the poverty and social oppression that breeds day to day violence? Does it legislate a “solution” based upon an aberrant occurrence in a place where violence isn’t supposed to take place where the per capita income is well above that of the average American — which implies that the rest of us are supposed to be subjected to it? Or do we get down on our hands and knees and pray to god for forgiveness of the sins of secular education?
Hopefully, at the least, not the latter.
Jan B. Tucker is a Private Investigator, State Director of the California League of Latin American Citizens and a Criminal Justice Columnist for Counter Punch.