Unfortunately, too often, no good deed goes unpunished.
Dogged Times Free Press police reporter Shelly Bradbury took the time to document the stories of 119 people in Chattanooga who have died as a victim of homicide since 2011, and one name on the list has made the other 118 people invisible.
His name is Mohammad Abdulazeez, and he is responsible for the deaths of five members of the armed services on July 16, a day that will live in 21st-century infamy in the Scenic City.
Indeed, he is responsible for five homicides on the list, which may be found online at timesfreepress.com/thetoll. He is also listed as the victim of a homicide because that is how his death is classified by police.
Bradbury made no value judgments as she compiled the list and meticulously dug out the stories behind them to offer a glimpse into the far-reaching impact of homicide. That's why the Chattanooga man who stilled a community with his murderous rampage takes his place beside a new mother, a little girl who also was raped and an immigrant small business owner just trying to make his way in the land of the free.
Like it or not, because Abdulazeez was shot by five local police officers, his death is a homicide. Indeed, it's a justified homicide, but justified homicides are included in the list.
Readers have said the shooter doesn't belong on a list beside the five servicemen, and if we were making a list of people who died for their country, they'd be right. If we were making a list of people who died while minding their own business, they'd be right. But this is a comprehensive list of people who died by homicide, which is defined as a person killing another person.
Abdulazeez was killed by members of the Chattanooga Police Department, and other servicemen there — and at other places he might have turned to next — are glad he was taken down.
However, the troubled, 24-year-old man isn't the only one on the list who died via justified homicide or had a troubled past when he died at the hands of another.
One man who died this year, for instance, had been involved in a domestic situation at his home, led police on a chase and brandished a firearm before being shot by police. Another was shot while he attempted to rob a car dealership. Still another was shot when he opened fire on two other men, who in turn shot him.
Bradbury's work is the only comprehensive public database covering Chattanooga homicides in the past five years. Its existence, which will be updated with each new case and details on open cases, is important in giving local residents a picture of what is now a stain on the community and what they should want to end. The Toll must speak louder than the exploits of one man.