Sick and tired of the killing

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

July 11, 1991|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

The sidewalk in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. is speckled with dried blood, and I keep thinking about the poem that begins, "Tired. Sick and tired. Tired of being sick and tired."

The blood belonged to 6-year-old Tiffany Smith.

Tiffany and a schoolmate had been playing at the schoolmate's home in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. Tuesday night when two young men got into an argument.

One man left and returned with a gun. The other man apparently already was armed.

The two men confronted one another on Rosedale -- a street crowded with people -- and then they opened fire.

Police said more than a dozen shots were fired. A stray bullet hit Tiffany in the head.

And I, for one, am tired. Sick and tired. Tired of being sick and tired.

I am tired of dumb, stupid, idiotic, brainless criminal acts like this latest shooting on Rosedale Street.

I am tired of innocent people dying.

I am tired of this ocean of grief and despair.

And I am sickened, absolutely sickened, sickened right down to the marrow of my bones, when I realize that Tiffany's death doesn't end anything.

A mother of three children was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Washington only three hours before Tuesday's shooting here. Police said she had unwittingly driven into a gunfight between two speeding cars.

A 26-year-old Silver Spring woman was shot to death July 4, hit by a stray bullet during a gang fight in New York's Chinatown.

In April, a 3-year-old was hit in the head and killed by a stray bullet that crashed through his family's third-floor apartment window on the south side of Chicago.

And there have been at least five other people hit, but mercifully not killed, by stray bullets during gunfights in Baltimore since early April. Tiffany was the 151st homicide victim this year. That's 12 more than last year at this time, and 1990 was the city's bloodiest year in two decades.

Tomorrow, there will be more senseless mayhem, more grief; and there will be more the next day and more the day after that -- murder and misery without end.

Nothing seems to stop the violence: not prayers, not punishment, not appeals to reason.

"They are just selfish," said Ruth Miller, Tiffany's aunt. "Selfish and stupid. They don't think about nobody but themselves."

She was talking about the two gunmen.

Miller, 25, was sitting on the porch yesterday afternoon, just around the corner from the shooting. She looked sullen and tired when I approached. Her eyes were red. All around her, children, Tiffany's cousins and playmates, were running back and forth, the way children do.

Tiffany's mother, Charlene Miller, was upstairs in bed, prostrate with grief and tired of giving interviews.

"I guess it hasn't sunk in yet," I said, nodding toward the kids.

"It'll sink in," said Miller heavily.

She said she saw one of the gunmen run from the scene. She said she recognized him and had even spoken to him from time to time.

"How do I feel about this?" she repeated after I had asked the inevitable question.

She shrugged. "I feel hurt and angry. I feel like Tiffany didn't have to die."

But she didn't sound angry. She sounded bone-tired, leached dry by bitterness.

Neighbors say one of the men had been using a phone booth when the second said something that angered him. The two argued for a while, and then one man left and got a gun.

"I was sitting right out here," said Miller. "And then I heard a shot. Then seven shots real quick. Then eight more after that. Then someone came around the corner and told me my niece had been shot."

When Miller got there, she found Tiffany lying on the sidewalk, bleeding from a wound to the head. Her eyes were closed but she appeared to be still breathing. Police said she was pronounced dead at Shock-Trauma about 45 minutes later.

A suspect, Guy Bernard Wilson, 20, surrendered to police about 3 p.m. and has been charged in the shooting. Police continue to seek the second gunman.

"Did you tell him, did you tell him that Tiffany was almost 7?" asked a little boy. He had been standing near by, bouncing a basketball throughout the interview, eavesdropping while two adults discussed the sudden, senseless death of a playmate.

"No," said Tiffany's aunt.

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