WASHINGTON. — More remarkable than the urban homicide rate, which hit a record high of 703 in Washington last year, is the absence of any guilt, shame or remorse shown by many of those who commit the murders.
J.J. Green, a reporter for Washington radio station WMAL, interviewed a convicted murderer and was shocked at the amorality he confronted.
Eudon Bernard is 17 years old. When he was 15, he shot and killed another young man. The interview in print cannot fully convey the chilling, matter-of-fact detachment displayed by Bernard on the radio.
''There wasn't nothing going through my mind while I was pumping,'' said Bernard, who says he shot his victim six times with a .357 Magnum. Bernard says he had heard his victim was trying to get him so he went after him first.
''I walked up to him and stuck the gun in him and shot him,'' said Bernard. ''He tried to move out of the way of the bullets, but I got him before he could. Then I ran back to the car and pulled off.''
Bernard also tried to kill another man in the car but only wounded him. Asked why he shot the other man, Bernard said, ''He was a witness and he was his friend. And if you shoot anybody's friend, it's obvious they're gonna come back after you for revenge.''
D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood says that more than drug abuse is responsible for the violence in America's cities. ''You can watch police shows or any other kind of show on television. There's a mindless thing about it. Parents don't watch their kids and screen what they see. The fact that you can borrow a gun and do some shooting says something about our society.''
Mr. Fulwood also is concerned about the growing number of criminals he sees who lack remorse: ''In my personal conversations with young people who have been involved with violence, there is no remorse. There's not the first tear. There's no sense that shooting another human being is wrong. Any police officer will tell you that when they go to the suspect's house to make an arrest, they're often in bed sleeping just like it was any other day. We have police officers who retire when they shoot people. The stress gets to them. How come these people feel nothing?''
Bernard says: ''You're not going to stop this. Your instinct or anger or something else will control you. You're not going to think, 'maybe he doesn't deserve [to die],' '' Bernard says.
Mr. Fulwood believes the violence is value-driven: ''Folks don't feel that there's something wrong with murder and selling drugs. My parents would have [severely punished] me if I'd brought something into the house they didn't buy. I got punished if I didn't go to church. We've gotten to the point where we say, 'Anything goes in order to get what I want. If I want it, I want it now.' ''
Again, Bernard echoes the point: ''I'm an impatient type of person. I can't wait for anything to come to me in 20 or 30 years from working. I've got to have it now. I don't want to wait for a car 10 or 15 years, and then it might not even be a good car. I want it now when I can enjoy myself while I'm young.''
Bernard will have neither the car nor his youth, because he's doing 16 years to life.
Cynthia Harris, whose son was murdered three years ago, told Mr. Green: ''We erred when we began to look at law enforcement as the only means to solve the problem [of violence] and look at the drug crisis as our only problem.''
She's right. The jails and prisons are full, and the rehabilitation programs don't rehabilitate enough people quickly enough. And the problem is getting worse. Just before Christmas in Washington, five juveniles were shot in the street in a single incident. It was reported that two of the victims who were targeted -- not accidentally shot but targeted -- were only 6 years old.
No politician, no increase in the police force, no increase in spending is going to stop any of this. Only a national decision that we've had enough and are ready to pay the price by repairing our families and our culture is going to do it.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.