Six young men under the age of 23.
Six young men, whose bad judgment and poor choices will alter their futures forever, as well as those they are accused of victimizing.
The question I keep asking myself is why would they be a part of shooting into an inhabited house after 3 a.m. Feb. 6.
The six people charged are Columbus Jones Jr., 22; his brother, Mark Jones, 20; Brandon Carter, 22; Demetrius Wright, 19; Jamelle Jackson, 18; and Braylon Rogers, 19.
Some will have their day in court to prove their innocence; some will get plea bargains and serve less prison time than they should have received.
Rogers already has pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon in illegal possession of a weapon and will be sentenced after he tells the world what really happened that day. He has promised the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office he will testify against the others.
As the story stands now, their critical lapse of judgment resulted in the death of Jamail Johnson, 25, a Youngstown State University student and member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. By published accounts, Johnson was a good student and a mentor. In fact, some accounts have him trying to usher out some of the aforementioned suspects from the Indiana Avenue home near the YSU campus frequented by his fraternity brothers when the shots rang out. Eleven other people were wounded.
This tragedy continues to bring out more questions for me that I hope will be answered when this case finally ends.
Why would a person, who knows he should not have a gun, get one anyway? This was a party, not a situation where someone’s life was in danger. Why do you need to bring guns to a party?
Also, who came up with the idea to shoot into the house full of people? Where was the regard for human life?
Back in the olden days when I grew up, if people were at odds with one another, there was a fist fight, usually involving two combatants, and may the best man win. When did it become the norm to “pack some heat” to settle your differences?
We don’t need any more laws to restrict guns in this matter. The laws against illegal possession of guns are already on the books and should be enforced. There should be no plea bargain involved with any of these suspects if it’s proved beyond a reasonable doubt they had weapons.
Published accounts say there were four 17-year-olds at this after-hours party, one of whom was shot and hospitalized. So I have some more nagging questions. How did underage children get into this party at 3 a.m.?
Did they lie to their parents or guardians, saying they were “spending the night” at a friend’s house? If they didn’t lie, what responsible parent or guardian doesn’t check to see why their child is not home at that time of the morning? In the era of cell phones that double as portable computers, did it not occur to the parent or guardian to call to check on the child’s whereabouts?
A friend of mine said if his daughter or son wasn’t home at an appointed time, he would have been out in his car patrolling the streets to find the child. I wonder, did that happen in this matter?
Here’s some advice young people, most of which you have heard but probably have discarded.
First, closely observe the character of the people with whom you choose to associate. Second, when someone asks you to go to a party at 1 a.m., you can say no. Few good things ever happen in the late-evening or early-morning hours.
If you’re 17 — and there are 11 p.m. or midnight curfews in all Mahoning County jurisdictions for that age — don’t even consider going to a late-night gathering. I don’t care how good looking the girl or boy may be at the event.
Some say this is just a sad case of young people being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I say had any common sense been used by the suspects, and those who opted to attend this party, there would have been no trouble at all.
But maybe I am too naive or too out of touch with some of today’s youth to expect that they should know the difference between right and wrong.
It is sad to think that in the 21st century you have to teach someone that shooting into a house filled with people, or being a part of such activity, is wrong.
It is even sadder to think those involved, perhaps, had seared their consciences to the point that they simply didn’t care.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org