published Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Serial killer stalks city; apathy is its own witness

Online: See an interactive map of city shootings by neighborhoods at

There’s a serial killer in Chattanooga.

The killer is apathy, and apathy strikes every day. Sometimes every hour, every minute.

Apathy strikes every time witnesses to crime will not own up to seeing anything, hearing anything, knowing anything. Apathy strikes every time a witness refuses to come forward about another shooting, another drug deal, another threat.

Over and over and over, apathy kills progress and values in this city that seems to have almost everything else going for it — everything except infectious, cancerous apathy.

Apathy is why shootings have increased in Chattanooga in recent years even though other crime here has trended downward. Apathy is why, since the beginning of 2013, about 160 people — 90 percent men and 92 percent black — have been victims of about 140 shootings.

And apathy, along with its cousin fear, are why nearly 60 percent of those shootings have gone unsolved. Since 2011, only two dozen people have faced prison time out of more than 300 shootings and murders here. Police and prosecutors — and even the victims themselves — say that’s because witnesses won’t come forward to tell what they saw, heard and know.

Some say they fear retaliation. Some just characterize it as the inner city’s code of silence.

It’s apathy. And the more this silent killer strikes, the deeper the burial pit for all of us.

In late February, one shaky teenager bucked apathy and agreed to be a witness in an execution-style gang murder that left 18-year-old Eric Fluellen lying in the street, shot multiple times through the head.

The witness said Lee Antonio Clements Jr. confessed the killing to him, and police said a Facebook photo proved Clements had been with Fluellen on the night of the shooting.

Clements was charged, but a Hamilton County grand jury declined to indict him. Details in the story the witness told in court differed from what he originally told police. His testimony came under attack, and the homicide charge was dropped.

Even Fluellen’s mother, Shonda Mason, understands this apathy. For years she believed in and practiced the inner city “code of silence” she said. Now she feels differently. Now she believes violence in Chattanooga will never stop until witnesses start talking.

Apathy as a city and state growth killer is nondiscriminatory. Nearly three-quarters of Chattanooga’s shootings happen in locations where only about 10 percent of the county’s population live, largely in the east and south inner-city areas of Chattanooga. But these shooting numbers help paint the entire city and state with fear when headlines like this one in the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom: “Fearful of violent crime? Don’t go to Tennessee, which tops the list of America’s most dangerous states.”

Yet even more frightening is this glimpse of the future: This handful of neighborhoods in the inner city that average six or more shootings a year also is home to 14 percent of the county’s youngest children — those below school age.

These youngsters are growing up in this world where gunfire is as normal as heavy rain. And they are growing up where a third of adults did not graduate from high school, 21 percent are unemployed and 42 percent live in poverty.

Of course apathy lives here. And apathy is a teacher here.

But we must make no mistake: It is apathy that must come to feel unwelcome. Not the innocent residents, not the police, and certainly not the witnesses.

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jesse said...

You got apathy mixed up with FEAR!

March 9, 2014 at 11:43 a.m.
Ki said...

It is neither apathy or fear, jesse. It's self-preservation, the first law of nature. From those on both side who do harm. Even the ones pretending to be the good guys.

The issue can't be addressed and solution csn't be found without openly discussing the roles race, racism, plans to gentrify targeted areas have played in all that's morphed into what has unfold locally, but pretty much all across the nation in poor communities. Remember the brigade crowd's solution and chants once were to, "Round'em all up and dump'em at the state line?" "Round'em all up and place'emm inside barbed wire fencing?" Where is that crowd hiding now? Are they in hiding? Or have they just changed strategy with the end goal still intact?

Everyone, on all sides, need to come clean. Only then can Chattanooga, and even America, move forward. As long as the truth remain dormant, covered up or in hiding, all this is mere pretense of addressing and solving anything.

Here's a group that seems to know how to face and slay the dragons head on.

The manufacturing of gangs to justify ushering in gentrification which in part morphed into the problems and issues many cities and towns are having to face today could be seen manifesting itself as far back as the 1980s. Perhaps even earlier on some levels. I can recall when the word gang and gentrification began to be tossed around simutaneously in the community I live. Suddenly fake gang grafitti started cropping up everywhere. The news media, police, community leaders were all over it. While at the same time ignoring the KKK grafitti many residence had had to tolerate for years because no one was interested. It dawned on some of us, something wicked was taking place even way back then.

from alt org:

“Community organizing has that history of ignoring things that are thought to be divisive or thought to wage differences in the base of people that we’re organizing,” said Bree Carlson, NPA’s structural racism program director. “So organizers tend to look for what is the common denominator and focus on that and try to minimize anything that could make their base break apart. So that has been pretty race-adverse — which is not to say that community organizing leaders don’t care about racism. It’s just harder to organize around something where people are going to feel wildly different about it. But the fact is, no matter how much that seems like a good idea in the short-term, it’s always going to haunt you in the long-term.”

March 9, 2014 at 8:55 p.m.
rmodrall said...

What can we do? It doesn't do any good to speak up. In fact in doing so besides being prevented from testifying you might be tortured by our public officials because they are afraid that your testimony would lead to disciplinary action that will put them in prison permanently. Sadly that is what needs to happen in the best interest of our community. The US Attorney, Court of the Judiciary, the Governor's office, Hamilton County, etc. Those misbehaving children need to be made to accept responsibility for their actions and the harm they have done and continue to do to countless families.

March 11, 2014 at 11:18 p.m.
jesse said...

^^^^^ HUH????

March 12, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.
jjmez said...

Programs such as this crime reduction initiative aren't what they're touted to be. The black community would do itself a great good if it would pull together, creating its own delegation they could send into these cities or make contact with others in these cities where these type programs have been established. Where the crime initiative may work in NC although there's no real proof they too aren't having problems, it's not working well in say, Pennsylvania where a similar program was established, and young teen developed a blood clot in one of his testicles after a brutal patdown by a cop that led to him requiring immediate emerency surgery.

March 13, 2014 at 8:29 a.m.
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