The senseless violence that claimed the life of 20-year-old James "Jay" Stanley Bias has visited a second tragedy on a family still grieving the loss of another son, former University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, whose death from a cocaine overdose four years ago shocked the nation. Jay Bias was fatally shot as he left a Hyattsville shopping mall Tuesday by a man who apparently believed Bias had been flirting with his girlfriend.
Though there is a cruel parallel in that both brothers were gifted athletes whose lives were snuffed out before they were able to fully realize their potential, there is no evidence -- so far, at least -- that Jay Bias' death was in any way related to drugs.
Yet consider the trappings that frame this event like a silent scream of rage and despair: the obsession with material wealth that led the victim to the jewelry store where he met his assailant; the flashy, four-wheel drive vehicle in which the victim attempted to leave before it was riddled with bullets, which has become almost a status symbol among small-time hustlers; the expensive Mercedes from which the fatal shots were fired, driven by a young man who probably could never afford such a car from legitimate earnings alone, and finally, the gun that ended a young life. All are of a piece with the murky subculture of drugs and violence that claimed the life of the elder Bias.
Jay Bias' death may not be ultimately ruled "drug-related" in this year's homicide statistics. But it's hard not to believe he isn't just as much a victim of that world's explosive anger and callous indifference to life that killed his illustrious brother.