An urban tragedy comes full circle
Posted by Lynne Varner
Here's the Seattle Times story about Brian Keith Brown being sentenced to just over 11 years and three months in prison for fatally punching a South Seattle man last summer.
This latest turn in the 29-year-old Renton man's life doesn't come out of the blue. Sad to say, he was heading in this direction for a while. He had prior convictions for assault, drug possession, trespassing and driving with a suspended license.
This tragedy is two-fold. Brown will lose 11 years of freedom. Rightly so. He killed a man. James Paroline, 60, was watering a flower garden at a traffic circle near his home, an effort to beautify the neighborhood that would normally be greeted with a smile or thanks. Police said Paroline was not in an offensive or defensive stance and his hands were at his side when Brown delivered a single and fatal punch.
I believe in personal responsibilty yet I can't help but see the others who bear some culpability for the way Brown's life has turned out. He grew up partly in foster care because his mother was busy serving time for bank robbery according to this story.
His life took this latest fateful turn when three girls told him Paroline had been mean to them as they argued with him about his traffic cones. There was mention of water being sprayed on them. Brown decided to hit first and ask questions later.
Police contradict the girls account. A video of the attack, shot by a neighbor showed Paroline attempting to ignore the girls after they began yelling at him to move traffic cones. The video does not show any physical confrontation between Paroline and the girls.
The girls could not be charged as accessories, culpable though they were in all that transpired after they confronted Paroline. There are lessons to be learned from this tragedy but I'm not sure if the right people will learn them. Will parents teach their children that violence is a last and defensive-only resort. Will they teach their children that untruths, unintended or not, have horrible consequences. At some point will the rest of us move off the personal responsibility stump and realize the many actors featured in a tragedy? I'll optimistically hold out hope.
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