Courtesy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial board, asking a question whose answer is found in the necessity for the black-only NOLA For Life campaign... [How could a young man be killed over something so small?: Editorial, 1-30-15]
Tokoyo Palmer, a 17-year-old student active in junior varsity basketball, band and ROTC at Landry-Walker High School, was shot to death Monday morning while walking to his bus stop. He was wearing his school uniform and carrying a backpack.
He was killed, New Orleans police say, over a borrowed Xbox video controller worth $40. That a child could die over something so slight is horrifying.
"It's almost unfathomable," Detective Sgt. Nicholas Gernon, commander of the Police Department's Homicide Division, said Wednesday.
But the dispute over the video controller is the motive that surfaced as police investigated the killing. The suspect, who had not been arrested Thursday afternoon, is 19-year-old Kareem Richards.
"Apparently, Tokoyo had borrowed one of Kareem's video game controllers.
Kareem had repeatedly asked for it back and Tokoyo hadn't returned it," Detective Gernon said. "So, at that point, Kareem basically waited him out, hunted him down and looked for him that morning. He finally found him when the kid was walking to the bus stop, and shot and killed him."
A disagreement that should have been settled easily and peacefully instead ended with a young man shot multiple times on his way to school.
Tokoyo Palmer's senseless death is a testament to the importance of a conflict resolution initiative launched in December by the city's Health Department and the Center for Restorative Approaches. The program is part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's NOLA for Life anti-violence initiative and is focused on public schools.
Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools in 2013 called for schools to use restorative justice techniques and help students work out their problems with each other.
Tokoyo had been concerned about the issue as well. As a 10th grader, he talked on a video interview about the need for more social workers on school campuses to help resolve disputes. He was referring to fights among students. He and Kareem Richards were neighbors, not classmates.
But if more young people had the skills needed to resolve conflicts without violence the city might be safer. Perhaps Tokoyo would have been able to get to his bus stop in Algiers unharmed.
That is basically the idea behind the conflict resolution program.
"Violence is preventable, not inevitable," Mayor Landrieu said in announcing the new program. He is encouraging schools citywide to take advantage of the program.
Schools ought to leap at the chance to be part of the anti-violence program.
New Orleans is a dangerous place for children. Murders overall have been declining in the city, but there were a dozen victims age 17 or younger in 2014. That was the same number as in 2013.
Now here we are in a new year, and more young people are dying.
"Tokoyo Palmer was, by all accounts, a good kid," Detective Gernon said. "He didn't have run-ins with the police. He seemed to be doing what he was supposed to be doing."
He and Kareem Richards might have been friends at one point, but they had a falling-out over the video controller, the detective said.
The methods promoted by the Center for Restorative Approaches are considered best practices for teaching children how to keep a falling-out from escalating to something far worse. The program includes alternative types of discipline and emphasizes making amends for harm done to someone else rather than punishment.
New Orleans conflict resolution program, which is funded by the White House, will include training for volunteer facilitators and groups where children can be referred to learn how to handle disagreements.
"You see a lot of violence in this city. You see a lot of people make poor choices, and for really meaningless things," Detective Gernon said. But the killing of Tokoyo Palmer is "very tough to wrap your head around."
It is impossible, really. The challenge now is to try to make sure it doesn't happen to another child.Why is the NOLA for Life campaign necessary?
This simple formula: Low Impulse Control + Poor Future Time-Orientation + Low IQ (x) jury nullification (black political control)² = New Orleans 2015
The black population lacks both the accountability and reasoning capabilities as their white counterparts.
There's your answer, New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial board...