Over the weekend I watched a documentary on HBO called Valentine road.
It tells the story of Larry King, who was tragically shot to death in 2008. You might recall the story from the news. On February 12th of 2008, Brandon McInerney(age 14) walked into class, behind Lawrence ‘Larry’ King (age 15) and shot him twice (at least once in the head). The motive turned out to be that Brandon was embarrassed and angry because Larry, a young man trying to find his identity (the information I have seen both suggest a young gay man or a trans girl… Two weeks after Larry started to accessorize (how the school referred to his wearing makeup and jewelry) and generally express himself, he was dead. This time frame matters, because there was something rather horrifying that developed.
A defense of Brandon’s actions crept into the public. We needed to consider just why he killed Larry. And yeah…things like motive matter. But this bizarre defense came about. It was Brandon who was harrassed…he was the victim in the situation and it is unfair to punish him.
This comes up in the documentary several times. He was greatly embarrassed because Larry had asked him to be his valentine in front of Brandon’s friends. And shortly after called out “love you, baby!” And one other time paraded around “flamboyantly” in front of Brandon and his friends. This was portrayed as a hard push campaign of harrassment by Larry against Brandon.
And you know what? I get being generally embarrassed by general activity like that… Sure, if someone you are not interested in makes a few overtures for your attention, it can be a bit uncomfortable and awkward….especially when your friends tease you about it. Young women are faced with that stuff all the time. They get uncomfortable because a boy they are not interested in is attempting to get their attention. And some of those incidents develope into real harrassment. There are a lot of factors that go into it all.
But the cold hard truth? Brandon’s embarrassment was his own. He could have told his friends to stuff it. He could have shrugged it off. He had a girlfriend, so he did not have to “prove” his heterosexuality to them. There is a long list of ways to handle the attention he got from Larry. Shooting him twice in the head was never an acceptable option. Terrifyingly, you would not necessarily know that from the reaction of some of the teachers and jurors interviewed in Valentine Road. It is heartbreaking to hear people take the side of a killer who killed with malice and forethought.
Imagine this… It was the unpopular girl. She is seen as a joke by classmates. Made fun of… But she takes the risk and asks out the cute basketball player. His friends tease him mercilessly. So, a day or two later he walks up behind her and shoots her twice in the head. Tell me, defense attorneys, jurors and teachers… Would you feel so comfortable suggesting she brought on her own death? That Brandon should be granted leniency?