Friday, August 02, 2013

EDITORIAL >> One shooter behind bars

A white business owner fatally shoots a black employee during a business meeting last November in Ward. It briefly becomes a national story because of accusations of racism. But then it fades from the headlines, except for an occasional newspaper report and TV interview with the victim’s mother, who had hoped to turn the tragedy into a national scandal like the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.

Flash forward eight months: On July 24, Christopher Reynolds, the business owner who shot Ernest Hoskins of Little Rock in Reynolds’ Ward home, entered a guilty plea to manslaughter and received a 10-year-sentence. Reynolds, who ran a business that sold a gadget that supposedly improved gas mileage on vehicles, could have taken his chances and gone to trial, but witnesses would have testified that he kept pointing his .44 magnum Desert Eagle at Hoskins. It didn’t go off at first but then he tried again. When the gun went off, he killed Hoskins.

This is the South, where most of the longtime inhabitants still have guns in their homes and firmly believe it’s their right to have them there. Even if they don’t hunt, they probably treasure some old shotgun or rifle handed down from their dads or grandfathers.

But just as they hold firm to their right to have them, most also are familiar with the truisms handed down from those same dads and grandfathers: Assume all guns are loaded. And never point a gun at someone unless you intend to kill them.

So we wonder what was going on in Reynolds’ mind when he pointed that .44 magnum at Ernest Hoskins’ head and pulled the trigger? And when it didn’t go off, why did he do it again?

A special prosecutor had taken on the case after the victim’s mother questioned Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham’s impartiality. The accusation was unfair, especially since Hoskins’ mother wouldn’t tell us why she thought that.

Instead, she was granting interviews to a young reporter at a Little Rock TV station, whose coverage was reminiscent of CNN’s constantly promoting Trayvon Martin’s family, which was a journalistic coup of sorts but left no doubt where the network’s sympathies lay.

Hoskins mother had retained Martin’s attorney in hopes of drawing a comparison with the Florida case. That strategy didn’t gain any traction. In the end, George Zimmerman, who had fatally shot Martin, went free, while the Arkansas shooter will serve the maximum sentence for manslaughter.

Despite the family’s disappointment in the light sentence in Lonoke County, prosecutors here succeeded in meting out justice while their counterparts in Florida didn’t come close.

Which is one more reason to choose Arkansas over Florida or anyplace else.