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Originally published December 1, 2009 at 9:44 PM | Page modified December 2, 2009 at 1:41 AM

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Jerry Large

Answers more than skin deep

When my son, who is linked to the Web 24/7, told me the shootings had happened, my first thought was how horrible it was that four people had been killed that way. My second thought was I hoped whoever did it wasn't black.

Seattle Times staff columnist

When my son, who is linked to the Web 24/7, told me the shootings had happened, my first thought was how horrible it was that four people had been killed that way. My second thought was I hoped whoever did it wasn't black.

That was not out of concern for the shooter.

Before writing a word, I'd already gotten an e-mail from a man gleefully pointing out the race of the shooting suspect.

The e-mail's subject line was "Blacks make the papers" and it included photos of Maurice Clemmons, who is believed to have shot and killed the Lakewood police officers, and Christopher Monfort, who is accused of killing Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton on Oct. 31.

Most folks aren't like the reader who e-mailed me, but the race of the two accused killers will be in the back of a lot of minds, quietly reinforcing ideas already present.

Monday my editor asked whether I might want to write about that in light of the two attacks. I said I'd see what I could come up with, but was reluctant. Why drag race into it when the shootings weren't about that? Except, of course, race is part of the background noise.

Still, it felt too soon, so I put it off for a day.

Monday I was thinking of nine children who had a parent snatched from them by a gunman. I'm a parent. I share that with the four slain officers. I don't share anything more important than that with Clemmons.

It seems he intended to shoot police officers, but the gunman killed four people who were also parents, siblings, children, spouses, friends. He caused grief, sadness, pain and anger.

I read the messages people were posting in response to stories in The Times about the killings, though I know they aren't always the most accurate reflection of public sentiment.

Anger dominated, and it was flung in many directions. Sometimes at Clemmons, who was called a freak and human garbage.

But often people turned their anger into a stick with which to beat conservatives or liberals, anyone they already disliked.

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Some of the online postings made race an issue, but they don't concern me so much.

I worry more that police, who have good reason to be wary and upset, will be affected, at least for a time, by that one thing the men had in common.

The two suspects are as different from each other as they are from me.

Whatever they did, they did as individuals.

Clemmons had a long record of trouble, while Monfort worked hard and went to college to improve his situation.

One is tall and thin, the other short and stout. Do looks explain their actions?

Monfort said he was troubled by unfairness in the justice system, but he was troubled by far more than that.

He was violent and angry, and so was Clemmons. That's the group to which they belong. The violent and angry.

Their brotherhood includes Isaac Zamora, who killed six people, including a sheriff's deputy, in Skagit County; the Green River Killer; and a long list of others.

I feel sadness, frustration and even anger about all the deaths.

Those feelings arise from a place much deeper than my skin. And whatever drove the killers was more deeply rooted too.

Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

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About Jerry Large

I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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