Crime Comes Knocking

“You want to know what my version of gangsta is? Making your family top priority. If you ain’t doing that and your spending more money on drugs than you are on your kids school clothes than you definitely not gangsta. Go steal from someone that works there ass off so you can go get high. GANGSTA. Lmfao. If I hurt your feelings than this applies to you. Don’t trip though I been there myself and Im still trying to get my life right. I hope that one day I make it to where I can call myself a true gangsta. To my two beautiful daughters I’m so very sorry and ill be doing my best til the day I die to earn the right just to be called dad.”

– Chris Seitz, August 12, 2018 Facebook posting

Exactly one month later Chris Seitz would be dead.

Yesterday morning at 2:30 a.m. I was awoken by a loud, persistent knock and Sally’s aggressive barking. I got up, threw on some jeans, turned the front porch light on, looked out the window. It was a cop at my front door. “We’ve had some reports from this neighborhood that someone is going from house to house pounding on doors. Have you seen or heard anything?”

Still groggy from my sleep and more than a little irritated about being woken up at the wee hours of the morning, I answered sarcastically, “Not until now.”

The cop asked my name and jotted it down on his notepad and then asked my date of birth. “What has that got to do with anything?” He didn’t ask the question again.

“So nobody has tried to gain entry to your house in the last hour?”

“I’ve got the biggest dog in the neighborhood with the loudest bark. No one who’s ever walked down this street doesn’t know that.” On cue, Sally pushed her way forward to stand between me and the cop. He took a step back from the doorway.

“Ok, We may send someone around later in the morning with some more questions.” As he started to walk away I told him as an afterthought, “My neighbors on that side of me are camping until Friday. You may want to put a spotlight on their house and yard.” He thanked me for watching out for the neighbors and left.

What he didn’t tell me was that an hour earlier a man had been killed at the house directly behind mine while attempting a home invasion. I guess that’s standard operating procedure in an investigation.

Not being able to get back to sleep, I posted the following on Facebook. “There was a pounding on my door at 2:30 this morning. It was a cop. He said they had gotten a report that there was someone going around the neighborhood pounding on doors. My first response was, “Well if there wasn’t before there is now.”(3:18 am)

It got a lot of laughs. But when the early news came on TV, it was no laughing matter. My neighbor, Travis, whose backyard is directly behind mine, had shot a man. Dead.

I’m not putting any blame on Travis. I’ve only met him one time and he seems to be a pretty decent guy. I probably would have done the same in his circumstances if I owned a gun. In fact, I have empathy for him. It’s one thing to have a gun in your house for protection. It’s another thing entirely to have to use it.

No charges have been filed against Travis. The media has kept his name out of the news. The focus of ALL media reporting so far has been to explain Missouri’s Castle Doctrine – similar to the “stand your ground” statutes in some states but only applying after a home has been breached.

The name of the man he shot, however, has not been kept out of the news. The inference, lacking any background, is “He got what he deserved.” And that’s the way people hear it. Put one in the “pro-gun” column.

His name was Christopher A. Seitz. He worked, for a time, with both my oldest son and daughter-in-law. “It’s pretty upsetting,” is what my daughter-in-law messaged me.

I decided to check out his Facebook page to see if there were any public posts. There were plenty.

I don’t believe you can always get an accurate picture of someone from social media. But I think you can sometimes get the basic palette. Here’s what I found.

Chris Seitz had two estranged daughters. He loved his mom. He was 36 years old, but still struggled with the stunted maturity that I see in a lot of younger men and women – trying to create an image that is packaged and sold through much of today’s entertainment media. And conflicted or confused when finding out that “image” isn’t reality. Issues that used to be resolved in one’s late teens and early twenties were still issues for Chris as he approached 40. For some people, they never get resolved. Chris Seitz hadn’t at 36. And now, he won’t ever.

The pictures on Facebook depict a heavily tattooed and muscular man. He spoke in “gangsta” speak. His posts depict a not so unusual tendency for drama. He had friends who catered to the same “style.” They loved him and offered support – or what passes for love and support on social media. The most profound statement on his posts was “It’s okay if you take five steps forward and 10 steps back just the next time you make a move 20 steps forward.” But the reality is that sometimes 10 steps back is one step to many.

I was talking to my other next door neighbor yesterday. He was one of several people to dial 911 around 1:30 in the morning. Chris Seitz had tried to break into his house as well. Dissuaded from doing so by two Dobermans, he headed through the backyard and over the fence, where he then broke through the back door of Travis’ house. That was his one step too many.

Nobody knows what Chris Seitz intended as he went from house to house trying to break down doors at 1:30 in the morning. I asked my daughter-in-law for a summary of the 6 months that Chris Seitz worked with her and my son. This is what she wrote: “He was a really cool guy and a really good worker. He was living in a halfway house at the time trying to get himself and his life back together for his family. By the sounds of everything, he probably fell back into drugs.”

Chris worked as a low-wage temp, trying to move into a responsible adult life and failing. It seems epidemic.

Whenever a bunch of us old codgers get together, whether it be at the work break gathering place, a retirement party, or the local watering hole, you hear: “The younger generation doesn’t have any concept of work.” “People can’t handle responsibility these days.” “All they want to do is take drugs and party.” “They complain about not being able to buy diapers and then go out and get $500 worth of tattoos.” “It’s not like when we were young.” Is it just the next older generation talking?

The Westside Neighborhood where I live is something of an anomaly these days – a low-income neighborhood where crime rates are low. Tenant ownership is high. It’s an old neighborhood with an aging population – one of the oldest “suburbs” in Springfield, swallowed up by the city limits as Springfield expanded. At strategically located locations there are signs that proclaim “THIS IS A NO NONSENSE CRIME PREVENTION NEIGHBORHOOD.” They are not small signs, nothing like those “neighborhood watch” signs that you see attached to traffic signs and such in some communities. They are the size of small billboards. They’ve been there a long time, funded by an organization called The West Central Betterment Association. WCBA doesn’t exist anymore. These days it’s been split in two – the Westside Betterment Association and the West Central Neighborhood Association.

West Central is closer to the inner city, plagued with high crime, slum lords, and drugs. Lots of drugs. There are no such signs in West Central. A main corridor, Kansas Expressway, separates the two neighborhoods. In West Central very few people own their homes. Many of the residential buildings are former two-story, one family homes that have been divided up into decaying four unit apartments. In both Westside and West Central, if someone went house-to-house trying to break in, you’d probably call it suicide by proxy.

In Westside, the homes are smaller, single story, single family cracker boxes and ranchers, with a low cost of entry. Owners have kept the slumlords at bay by opting to stay in the neighborhood and apply their savings to buy up the low end of the market – maintaining them in good working order and renting out at fair market value. Travis is such a landlord, owning a house across the street from his. By taking care of his rental property, he protects the financial integrity of his own home. By taking a “no nonsense” approach to crime, he protects his family.

But, still, slumlords have made some penetration into the neighborhood. And real estate profiteers have built some large apartment complexes along Scenic Avenue, the most traveled road to the west of Kansas Expressway. Crime has come knocking at the door and people are scared.

How did we get to this point?

The news tells us that today’s wages are “stagnant.” They are not stagnant for unskilled or low-skill labor. In terms of buying power, they have been in free-fall since 1970. 50 years ago, 1 in 3 Americans belonged to a labor union. Today that number is 1 in 10 – the vast majority belonging to public sector unions with little or no striking power. For-profit colleges hand out paper “diplomas” for training in jobs paying as little as $8-9/hr. Tuition has skyrocketed for more traditional degrees. We’re left with a generation of young and middle-aged people buried in student debt.

The median length of time in a job for people aged 25-34 is 3.2 years. People are job hopping for a 25-50 cent an hour raise to make ends meet. And the entertainment industry is selling the idea that anyone can make it on “style” alone.

Suicide is at an all time high.

Did Chris Seitz deserve to die? Nobody deserves to die. That includes Travis and his family. Fearing for the safety of his family, in today’s society, Travis took appropriate action. But if we don’t take a harder look at what motivates behavior in our society and act on it, there will certainly be more tragedies like this one. A shift in a direction is needed. One to where “no nonsense” doesn’t have to mean “no future.” Literally.