When has vigilantism gone overboard? How and when do you we know if a person deserves certain types of justice? My boy, the Field Negro asks some of those same questions:
So there is this man who allegedly brutally raped an 11 year old girl after she dropped off a sibling at a day care in the middle of the day. She was found bleeding and dazed. The police were outraged, the poor girl’s family was outraged; and, understandably, the citizens who heard the story were outraged, as well.
But here is where the story gets a little crazy: The police union issued a statement naming Jose Carrasquillo as a person of interest, and they offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. They even said that there would be a pay out within an hour of his capture. In effect, they put a bounty on his head.
Thanks to the publicity (Or no thanks, if you are Jose Carrasquillo) some folks in the Kensington neighborhood where the poor child was raped, spotted a man fitting the police description, chased him down, and delivered street justice by beating him within an inch of his life. Finally, the police came on the scene and rescued and arrested Jose at the same time.
Most people are saying serves him right, and if he is in fact guilty, I am too. (All indicators are pointing to the fact that he is the right guy). But what if this wasn’t the right guy? Is it right for the police to issue a statement such as this and photos of a suspect for this type of a heinous crime? Was he just a suspect or a lot more? The police are saying that they did have every right to act the way that they did because the man was wanted on a bench warrant and had seventeen prior arrests. But did they?
Like many others, I grew up on comics and cartoons. It was not unordinary for me to celebrate superhero vigilantes. First, there is the obvious point of them being superheros. But more to the point, I celebrated them because as I followed the story, I knew who the bad guy was. Further, I knew that the superhero knew who the bad guy was.
But unfortunately, we don’t live in a comic book. We live in a reality ostensibly committed to the notion that innocence is presumed until guilt is proven. We live in a reality where a person like Mr. Carrasquillo should be considered – at the very best – a prime suspect. We don’t know with absolute certainty he was the culprit, even if everything pointed to him. Yet, the mob was very indiscriminate with imposing their style of justice on an untried person.
Like the Field Negro, I’m wondering how I would feel if it had been my daughter who was raped and assaulted. Would I still be as pragmatic? The mother does not appear to be:
Reynolds noted that she and her daughter were still amazed by the group of justice-seeking Kensington residents who gained national attention on Tuesday, when they beat and captured Jose Carrasquillo, 26, the man police had identified as a “person of interest” in the case.
“Actually, we are surprised” by the residents’ actions, she said. “I plan on inviting them to a welcome-home party for my daughter.”
Truthfully, I don’t know how I would respond. But the more sensible part of me (the part I hope would be more prevalent) would not want vindication for myself and my family through a system of injustice and mob mentality. I hope I never have to find out how I’d respond.
While I’m at it, I hope I’m never a “person of interest” in Philadelphia.