Back in November 2010 I reported in this space on the murder of Aaron Shannon Jr., who at age 5 was shot and killed in his South Los Angeles backyard. Such a killing is horrific under any circumstances, but it was all the more so in that it happened on the afternoon of Halloween, and that Aaron was wearing his Spider-Man costume in joyful anticipation of trick-or-treating that evening. Compounding the horror even further was the motive for the crime: retaliation against a street gang to which neither little Aaron nor anyone in his family had any affiliation. Aaron’s death was given some media attention, but to judge from the level of public outcry, his life was held as less valuable and his death as less tragic than that of Oscar Grant, the young black man who in the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2009 was shot and killed in Oakland, Calif., by an officer with the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department.
Grant’s death at the hands of the police led to days of rioting in Oakland, scenes that were repeated in July 2010 when the officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder as the mob would have wished. On the day after the officer was sentenced, a vigil was held in front of a South L.A. police station, which I described near the conclusion of that earlier column: