Some things I just don’t understand

[Closed circuit to the Reverend Mother: this is one you’re not going to want to read.]

This is a pretty grim topic, but I saw a stunning story on CNN today about a man who beat a toddler to death as onlookers tried unsuccessfully to get him to stop; ultimately the man had to be shot and killed by police called to the scene. Further details from later reports indicated that it was a 27-year-old Turlock, California man who beat, kicked, shook, threw and stomped on his two-year-old son.

The first people who came upon the scene were an elderly couple in their 70s who couldn’t physically intervene though they tried to confront the man. Another man who drove by on the rural road was a 52-year-old volunteer fire fighter, who said he was pushed away by the father. Someone called the police and a helicopter happened to be already in the air in the vicinity and it landed in a cow pasture near the assault. Unfortunately the chopper landed on the wrong side of an electrified and barbed wire fence. A deputy who got out of the helicopter was able to get within 10 feet of the attacker and ordered the man to stop. When the man gave the deputy the finger and continued to kick the boy the deputy shot him in the forehead.

The story is certainly bizarre in terms of the savageness of the attack, but there are other unusual circumstances as well. The place where this occurred was on an a rural road, late on Saturday night. Police said it was unusual so many cars drove by the rather isolated spot, and I have to wonder how common it is to have a helo already up and in the area when the calls came in.

I think just reading this has to leave you shocked and outraged so I have to imagine that those on the scene had to be especially off-balance and sickened by what they were seeing. I want to be clear that I place no blame or criticism on anyone but the “father” in what happened, but I also can’t help but wonder what could possibly have kept me from rushing in and using whatever force I could muster to stop such an onslaught. Of course, most of us will never know how we’d react in a sudden and desperate situation unless we were suddenly dropped into it. I know I’ve been in my share of scrapes and physical confrontations in my life in which I’d gotten pretty angry, but nothing near as dire as this. I know I’d been in a crisis situation before and had kept my head, but never in circumstances so evil.

When it comes down to it, I can’t say what I would have done in this situation. I know what I would have liked to have done, however.

One thought on “Some things I just don’t understand

  1. The sad truth is that this effect is pretty common, and has been studied a bit in psychology. It’s called the Bystander Effect, and basically says that the more people are around, less likely someone is to get involved in something.

    The suspected cause behind the bystander effect is that as more people show up, the responsibility to help is diffused: if it’s only an attacker, a victim, and a witness, there’s a lot of burden on the witness to help the victim; if it’s an attacker, a victim, and 100 witnesses, though, each witness feels as though someone else will help, and nobody steps up to the plate.

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