- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The angelic-looking Chelsea Cromartie was laid to rest on Saturday, after being killed by a stray bullet. On Monday, two brothers began their long walk with justice in the killing of that 8-year-old girl. Technically, police consider the case closed, since they have arrested the suspected gunman. However, while we salute all law enforcement efforts that led to the arrests, as well as the tips that led to the suspects’ trail, there are important issues that must not be lost along with precious Chelsea.

To illustrate, we offer this revealing picture. The gunman reportedly was retaliating following a dispute at a fast-food place, whose next-door neighbors are a church and a drug-treatment center. The gunman lived within blocks of the shooting and the restaurant, and had attended the high school. The shooting occurred around the corner, outside the home of one of Chelsea’s aunts. The funeral service for Chelsea, which was held in the church adjacent to the restaurant, drew an estimated 2,000 people — including Hollywood and local celebrities, politicians and preachers, and plain folk outraged by the senseless loss of such a young life. It was there, at the service, that a plea was made for the gunman to turn himself in by 5 p.m. Monday.

Notwithstanding the plea and the gritty police work that led to the arrests, Police Chief Chuck Ramsey articulated a message that must not be lost: The “culture” of violence, not just suspects, must be arrested.

Indeed, the suspected gunman obviously rejected all notion to turn the other cheek. But some nonprofit groups are teaching just that. A number of self-help organizations — including Robert Woodson’s National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the Alliance of Concerned Black Men, the Teen Life Center and faith-based groups — have succeeded in encouraging teens and young adults (including gang members) — to reject violence. If the preachers and politicians, celebrities and other folk in the larger community want to make sure Chelsea did not die in vain, they will shore up support for such organizations.

Police and prosecutors, meanwhile, must keep vigil on the mean streets of Washington so that the scales of justice tip in favor of law-abiding citizens — and little girls like Chelsea.

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