But being cynical and a former Baltimore cop, I'm thinking maybe this is a case of, "you play the game, you take your chances." Zeus does not throw random thunderbolts. Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place. You get the idea? Did they "have it coming?"
But read Colin Campbell's sob story. These kids are presented as nothing but lost angels:
"He was my best friend," said [father] Nedrick Johnson, 38.All that and a "great cook"? My God! Norman Rockwell couldn't present such a dreamy All-American Family.
The Johnson brothers played pickup sports and rode dirt bikes since they were 5 or 6 years old, their father said. "They used to sneak them out of the house and everything," he said.
Both were athletic: Darrian played quarterback, and Darrius power lifted competitively, he said. Darrius shot pool, could do a flip off a wall with a running start, and would sometimes ride his dirt bike with one hand — or none.
Nedrick Johnson scrolled through photos of his sons on his cellphone: standing in front of the Christmas tree, sitting together at a family get-together, diving into a pool in tandem, popping wheelies on their dirt bikes.
Darrian was caring, helpful, loyal, supportive and fiercely protective, his friends said.
"He was the type to call you out of the blue," she said. "'You good?' 'I'm just checking on you.' 'You need anything?'"
Homes said Darrian was a great cook and a lifelong friend.
"He lived his life," he said. "No matter if he died young, he lived his life to the fullest."
But it made my Spidey-Sense tingle. Maybe you shouldn't be "living life to the fullest" when you're 19 years old. When I was 19 I was studying in college and waiting tables. But my first warning sign was "popping wheelies on their bikes." Might seem wholesome to you. I love bicycles! Do you picture something like this?
(This guy is not a Johnson brother)
But in Baltimore we know what "dirt bike" means. (In a tweet, Colin confirmed "motor".) "Dirt bikes" are horrible for quality-of-life. And they kill people (eight between 1997 and 2000, as I have in my notes, but more since. Update: this (dirt bike seriously hurts pedestrian, runs) and this (car hits dirtbike, driven get beaten). But by some bleeding-heart narrative I don't understand, riding illegally and dangerously is just kids expressing themselves, even part of an uprising against racist cops.
I respectfully beg to differ.
First of all, good parents don't let their under-10 kids "sneak out" with any bike, much less a motor bike. "Oh, that Junior. You turn your head for a second and next you know he's doing wheelies on North Avenue!" Imagine the flack you'd get if you simply let your kid ride a bicycle without a helmet! You somehow it's OK for other children -- poor black kids in Baltimore -- to do no-hand tricks on motorbikes while going the wrong way in traffic?!
And, get this -- pay attention because this is important -- Baltimore police officers have gotten in trouble for trying to stop 7-year-old from riding motorized ATVs in the streets. Why? I don't know, but I suspect because when people read, "police removed a 7-year-old from his bike and detained his mom," they're thinking the kind of bike with cards in the spokes, so the cops must be assholes. It lead to media and public outrage against the police. And also a multi-year lawsuit from the boy's mother (really from a lawyer who thought he could get a cut of the city payout.) The city actually fought the case and won.
Here's what I found from a brief search of Maryland's online criminal records.
Darrius Johnson -- the brother killed in a double-shooting in 2015 -- was born in October 1995 and had a moderate criminal record: assault, trespass, escape, burglary, assault, and trespass on school grounds. But keep in mind this record only covers the last two years of his life. Victims may beg to differ, but crimes don't officially count until you're an adult. (And there's even a movement to raise the age.)
Darrius's brother, the one just killed, Darrian "Doddy" Johnson, seems to have stayed on the good side of the law with no criminal record. [Update: I originally posted incorrect information here that listed a Darrian Johnson with a different DOB and address. This was kindly corrected by a commenter. Corrections are always welcome.]
But the real criminal seems to be their father. He's no father of the year. For starters there's the murder charge he faced when he was 15! (The disposition of the murder charge isn't clear -- hey, maybe he didn't do it -- but I suspect that when the case was booted up to circuit court, he got charged as a juvenile and the records were sealed.) There's a first-degree rape charge at 18 (got null prossed, as ineffective prosecution could be seen as form of ghetto criminal entitlement). (There's also the issue of some fraud case with the State Employees Credit Union that he lost for $34,000 plus court fees.)
And then there's the usual mélange of battery, assault, drugs possession with intent, more assault, drug dealing, more drugs, handgun violations, more drug dealings, assault, more handguns and drugs (not marijuana), armed robbery, and another handgun violation.
The three sons mentions in the article may just be the kids he willingly took responsibility for. Paternity suits indicate at least two other sons (including a Nedrick Jr. already been convicted of a handgun violation). In fact, best I can tell (I may be wrong) Senior had three sons in two years! [Update: originally I had the time frame wrong.]
Reading a fluff pieces like this in the papers, you might begin understand why cops hate "the media." Neighbors call 911 and complain about shitty and violent public drug dealing neighbors over the years and over the generations. Police respond day after day after day to the crimes of this family.
We pay and expect police to deal with the Johnsons.
Let me say the taboo: Nedrick is a bad father and perhaps even a bad person. There. I've said it so cops don't have to.
Like the Antonios [sic] Addison and the Johnsons, some individual families are personally responsible for a disproportionate amount of violence and pain in Baltimore. These people are the criminals.
Police have to deal with the micro problems, the individuals, the Johnsons. Police don't deal with the macro issues of social justice. And since nobody else (government, church, school, welfare, prosecutors) seems to be able to deal with these problems, we pay and pray that police do. And then if and when something goes wrong, we put the police on trial? I doesn't make sense.
Does this matter? I think it does. Because when you read about a poor father with two murdered sons, you may think think he deserves your sympathy. Like, despite all the father's efforts, the mean streets of Baltimore reached out and got his children. But actually, it's people like him that make the streets of Baltimore mean.
Who do you think shoots and kills and assaults people every year? The same criminals who sue police departments. Freddie Gray's death was tragic; it may even be criminal, but that doesn't mean he's a role model on par with Martin Luther King, Jr. Keith Davis Jr. is an armed criminal who shot at and was shot by police. Even the out-to-prosecute-cops State's Attorney agreed. That should be the end of the story. But it's not.
False narratives matter because when we're not being honest, when we portray criminals as innocent victims and give violent criminals the moral high ground, we perpetuate the violence.