Tag Archives: Community

Murder in a Small Town, Part 2

It has been quite a week in Southern California and Nuevo.  I wrote earlier my initial response to the murder here in Nuevo, and feel a follow up post is warranted.

Tonight we have a meeting at Mountain Shadows Middle School from 7-9 that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is hosting regarding safety.  I am sure that Captain Collins and the department will have good information for us at the meeting, here are some thoughts in preparation for that meeting:

  1. These events are disconcerting and hit close to home.   It is reasonable to feel out of sorts and uneasy.
  2. This murder is not an accurate reflection of our community.  Our response to the murder is a much more accurate reflection of our community.  If we respond in fear, suspicion, distrust, and isolation then evil wins as we lose.  If we rise up and find ways to have compassion, reach out more to those who live around us, develop stronger ties of trust with neighbors, then we overcome evil and grow in goodness and strength. I know many of you, but not enough of you.  Those of you that I know are marvelous people (well almost all of you).  You know what I mean!  At tonight’s meeting there will be many quality people representing a quality community.  Let’s not let this horrible event overwhelm us, rather let’s use it as an opportunity for good.
  3. Fear is real, and often it is justified.  But just like any other human emotion it must be interpreted and rightly directed.  The mind needs to direct our emotion to its appropriate and right end.  It cannot be the dominant factor in decision making.  In our community today there is a reason to fear.  That fear should cause you to act cautiously, with appropriate limitations on behavior in light of a real threat. The individual who killed Maria and Connie Gonzales has not been apprehended, and may very well still be in our town.   That is cause for concern and a change of some behavior because he is dangerous and his behavior and location is unpredictable.  So be careful, but don’t let fear dominate your life.
  4. Control what is in your power to control and let the police do their job.  Here is what you can do.  Be a good neighbor.  Watch out for those who live around you.  Make an extra effort to build bridges of communication with those who live in proximity to you. Could you make contact with your neighbors in an emergency?  Swap phone numbers, email addresses and other ways to communicate.  Make an effort to forge a relationship that moves beyond the simple wave as you drive on by.  This sort of networking of people is real strength.  Frankly, it has an effect that no amount of police patrols can match.  Police have one level of input, but communities that join together and know one another are strong in ways that can never be supplied by the Sheriff.
  5. The Sheriff’s department are our partners in this process, not our adversaries.  Tonight is not a night to lobby for more police presence or to be critical of a lack of police presence.  Frankly, I pray that we don’t have a need for an increased police presence in our community.  Not because I don’t like them, or want to “get away” with speeding in Nuevo, rather it is a sign that our community has returned to “normal” and I can go back to not worrying about whether or not I remembered to lock the door.
  6. When a murder occurs, whether you know the person or not, it is personal.  Murder is a crime against all of us – someone who murders presumes the right to kill another.  Life, humanity is a component we share together, and as a society and community we are elevated when we respect life, and diminished when any one of us disrespects life.  The murder of a police officer is especially egregious. It is not only offensive to the person, his family and friends, but society as a whole because he works to uphold our values and social mores. These murders are offensive and reprehensible.
  7. It is the job of the police, District Attorney’s Office, and the whole justice system to render justice.  It is the job of the citizenry to stand behind law enforcement by obeying the law and in responding with compassion towards those who are the victims of crime.  The best thing we can do is reach out to the Gonzales family.

Obviously, the women killed here in Nuevo are close by.  Our community is a generous one and people are planning ways to help them (This Saturday there will be a car wash at the Hardware store to raise funds).  The Riverside officers who were shot today are also part of our extended community.  Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity for the community to see that we all still respect life and stand against the lack of respect for life. Tonight’s meeting is a gathering of the community so that we can remind ourselves that not everyone is going nuts, most of us are still standing up for what’s right.

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Murder in a Small Town

Yesterday two people out for a walk on a familiar stretch of Nuevo, a mother and daughter, were brutally stabbed to death.

We are exposed to murder in abundance in our culture:  Real murders on the news, dramatic portrayals on television, in movies, in books, in music, in video games.  It is pervasive. When it strikes close to home, it all takes on a different, more real impact.  It breaks through the “distance” we usually experience with a murder.  When there is a “connection,” it now invades my world.

How should we respond to a murder in a small town, or a murder in our neighborhood? Here are 6 ways to respond:

  1. The first response is compassion.  Real people lost real loved ones.  These aren’t actors.  A husband and brother lost a wife, and a mother, and a sister, and a daughter.  No matter what other emotion tries to climb to the top of your emotional staircase, compassion is the right one to feed.
  2. The second response is to keep your feet firmly planted in reality.  We are still the same community that we were last week.  This isn’t the first crime committed in our town.  Murders occur in towns of every stripe, because people live there.  You should always be aware of your surroundings and be discerning when odd circumstances or individuals present themselves, not just in the week following a crime.  Don’t jump to conclusions when you don’t know the whole story.
  3. Justice will be done.  We have great law enforcement officers.  I know several of them.  They are equipped to do all that you want done, to catch the person responsible and bring him to justice.  So direct your justice meter in this direction.  And the next time you see a police officer in your rear view mirror or on the side of the road or at Starbucks, thank God for them and pray for their instincts, wisdom, and safety.
  4. Don’t let fear dominate your days and decisions. I was so encouraged to see one of the “regular” walkers out this morning on my way into the office.  I know it is a temptation to be distrustful of every stranger, to hole yourself up in your house, or to stop your normal routine.  Resist the temptation.  Behave reasonably with discernment and take necessary precautions, but don’t be afraid.
  5. Get to know your neighbors.  Interestingly enough, in our small town, not everyone knows each other. One of the news reports characterized Nuevo as a town where everyone knows one another. It really isn’t true.  Our community, like most American communities, pride themselves on individual space and privacy.  I didn’t know this family personally, but they live in the same community so it is geographically personal.  The more we know each other and are concerned about one another the better off we will be.  It may not have made any difference in this instance (some things are out of our control which is what makes it so disconcerting), but it is a safer place when there is neighborhood awareness and concern.
  6. Pray.  There is a lot of pain and suffering.  Pray that you would have opportunity to be God’s instrument of love, encouragement, and truth.  Pray for a family grieving.  Pray for a family that will be embarrassed, ashamed, and burdened by the guilt of a crime that cannot be undone.  When God appears to be absent, His people need to be present.

Last.  Someone knows the perpetrator. The best thing that could happen to him is that he be caught and brought to justice.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he needs protection from the proper authorities and prosecution.

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