Internet to Grieving Family: Your fucking 2-year-old started this…

I still remember the name and cause of death of every dead kid I ever covered as a reporter. It’s not a small list, either.

There was the 4-year-old AIDS victim, the 17-year-old drunk driver, the 12-year-old who was playing with a gun… The list goes on from there in a brutal recounting of wounds that never healed.

The only saving grace in any of these stories was that it always seemed like there was a communal moment of sadness for these families and their loss. In the wake of this crippling pain was a small halo of sympathy before people moved on.

Randall Terry got none of this as a series of tragic (and yes I mean that in the way Shakespeare wrote) events diminished his family and placed him in the public eye.

Damani Terry, the man’s 2-year-old son, was at a birthday party when he ran out into the street, the way a million other kids have done a million other times.

Every kid who ever did this has heard an adult scream, “You’re going to get hit by a car if you do that again!”

Damani never had a chance. A van, driven by Archie Brown Jr., ran the boy over.

As Brown stood over the boy, distraught and anguished, Damani’s uncle, Ricky Ricardo Chiles III, retrieved a gun and shot Brown dead. In the process, Chiles also shot his own 15-year-old nephew, Rasheed Chiles. On Thursday, as authorities closed in on him, Chiles shot and killed himself.

There was so much wrong with this that it would just turn a normal person inside out.

Damani was just a toddler who made one tiny mistake. Reports on Brown’s actions show that he was not driving recklessly and made no attempt to leave the scene. Had he perpetrated a hit-and-run, we would all admonish him, but he’d still be alive. Instead, by owning up to what happened, he died.

Ricky Chiles was already a one-time loser in the criminal justice system. He was a felon on extended supervision who wasn’t supposed to have access to a gun. Yet there he was on the street, displaying both a lack of impulse control and vengeful rage that would lead to a total of four deaths.

How do we make sense of this? How do we come to grips with this? How many ways can we ask why?

Don’t worry. That’s why we have the Internet:

In the days that followed, Terry said, their family became the subject of hatred and threats on social media. People they didn’t know cursed their son, blaming the 2-year-old for setting off the chain of events that traumatized the community by running into the street. Online commenters called for Tidwell’s arrest, saying she should be thrown in prison for not supervising her child closely enough.

In other words, “Fucking 2-year-old! Get your shit together!”

Lock ‘em up. Blame ‘em good. Nice call there, John Wayne. I’m sure there’s no problem out there that your caps lock and lack of grammar can’t solve. Because that’s what needs to happen here: Someone needs to be punished and blamed so we can all go back to eating Cheetos and watching “American Idol.” Once we solve this, we’re ready to be done with the “hard stuff” like four lives cut short for no good reason.

Every time I had to write about some of this “hard stuff,” I felt the ripples of these people’s anguish. I mourned in my head while I had to ask things like, “So you were told that she was legally intoxicated before she crashed the car?” One time, a woman told me that my story about her son had so injured the boy’s father that he wasn’t able to go to his son’s funeral. She told me she held me personally responsible for that. It’s been decades and that still won’t go away. That’s why it’s so hard for me to see this:

The couple ignored the hateful comments and had planned to join Brown’s family at a vigil Wednesday evening — the day one of Damani’s sisters turned 6. But a pastor phoned Terry and told them not to come, fearing for their safety in light of the online harassment.

I don’t know if this is an Internet thing, a dissociation thing or just that people are generally bigger and louder assholes these days. I also don’t know if these social-media warriors will ever have a moment that causes them to regret their simple-minded “There-I-Fixed-It” rantings. I do know that this family will never be the same and neither will anyone who reads about what happened this week.

6 thoughts on “Internet to Grieving Family: Your fucking 2-year-old started this…

  1. gratuitous says:

    “Boy, if I’d-a been there, I would have given that no good so-and-so a piece of my mind!”

    Well, now we’re all there all the time. Ricky Chiles may have had poor impulse control, and because he had a gun he shouldn’t have had, he quadrupled the body count from a most unfortunate incident. Many of the rest of us have poor impulse control, too. Instead of a gun, we have the instant, global communication of the world wide web, so we can all give that no good so-and-so a piece of our minds. Even if he’s dead.

    Some people are just born to go down on the field of battle after the hostilities are over and shoot a few of the wounded and survivors. Compounding this state of affairs, we have also learned that there is no guarantee that barking is all some of these dogs are going to do. So the service where some healing and reconciliation is supposed to take place has to bar some people out of fear of more violence.

    Such a lovely society we’ve fashioned. I wonder if it has to be the way it is?

  2. SG says:

    It’s even more tragic: the 15-year-old nephew who was shot was the toddler’s brother.

  3. Aaaargh says:

    Thanks, NRA! Mission accomplished!

  4. mothra says:

    Goddamn. I mean goddamn what a sad freaking situation. I read about it and think shit, what a terrible, sad mess. I don’t think “who’s to blame for this and how should we make them suffer even more.” Not for a minute. It confounds me always that there are people who do. It’s just all part of that “if I criticize this, something like this will NEVER happen to me because I am good and perfect and immune from tragedy.” Which never works, as we all know.

  5. dr2chase says:

    A rational person might note that 2-year-olds have forever had minds of their own, and that impulsive hotheads have also always been with us. The particular disaster amplifiers here were the van and the gun; there are countries were guns are much harder to obtain, and there are countries were the speed limit is far lower anywhere a 2-year-old might dash into the path of a car, to give everyone more time to react and to reduce the energy of those crashes that do result (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_street — not something that is even the subject of debate in this country yet).

  6. pansypoo says:

    how do we educate the trolls? where are those FEMA camps?

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