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Staff File Photo by Tierra Hayes / The Chattanooga Police Department investigates near the 2100 block of McCallie Avenue following a shooting on June 5.

The Thursday assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe in Japan, you heard about.

The May school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, you heard about.

The June McCallie Avenue shootings outside Mary's Bar & Grill, you heard about.

But, unless you knew him, you probably never heard about Cecil Scoffield.

Cecil Scoffield was sitting in his home on Citico Avenue about 10:30 p.m. on June 12, a Sunday, doing what his obituary said was "one of the things he loved best" — playing a game of solitaire — when shots tore through the night.

Within a short time, after being taken to the hospital, he was dead.

Scoffield, 72, was a 1970 graduate of Howard High School and had worked at Sholze Tannery and for the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

He was known, his obituary said, as a "quiet, gentle giant."

The tribute went on to say if the Commerce, Ga., native "wasn't working the daily New York Times crossword puzzle (without a dictionary), he would engage anyone who was brave enough to go head-to-head with him regarding his beloved team, the Tennessee Titans."

Scoffield had no children of his own, the obituary said, but "was a father figure to many." He left four living siblings and a passel of nieces and nephews, each one said to be "special to him in their own way."

He was laid to rest in Forest Hills Cemetery on June 22 following a graveside service.

Scoffield's obituary in this newspaper and in another online news source was two sentences long. It mentioned his name, his age, the date of his death, and the fact the John P. Franklin Funeral Home was in charge of his arrangements.

The news of his slaying — for that's what it was, even if he was not an intended victim — did not get much exposure. He was shot. A woman who was driving through the area with a male companion also was shot. Both were taken to the hospital, where he died. Police were looking for information.

The local Crime Stoppers program and its Local3 News partner featured Scoffield's death last month because police were at a loss for tidbits to help solve the innocent man's death.

"It's very important to not only the family but us as a police department, as a community, that we find information so investigators can make an arrest in this case," Chattanooga Police Sgt. Victor Miller said in the Crime Stoppers segment.

"They've lost a son, an uncle, a brother, who they will never get to talk to again," he said. "One family member even told me that he was the one that everybody leaned on when they had tears in their eyes. He was the one that would wipe the tears away."

The tragedy is that there are a lot of Cecil Scoffields out there. They aren't cut down in a mass shooting. They aren't caught up in gang activity. They aren't disrespecting anyone or someone's lady.

It would be easy here to pivot into the gun angle. It cannot be disputed that the more guns that are sold legally, the more that they will wind up in the hands of those who buy them under the table from a legal owner, the more that will be stolen, the more that will be used indiscriminately.

The United States saw 90,498 gun deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to Washington Post figures. Almost 21,000 of those victims were Black men. Black men, the figures show, are 17 times as likely to be killed with a gun fired by someone else.

Scoffield was Black. But he was — let this sink in again — in his home playing solitaire.

The Chattanooga Police Department wants to figure out this shooting. Not just to close the books on it and stamp it "solved," but because the victim's family is still grieving, collectively shaking its head. Why did this happen? Why my brother? Why my uncle? Why when he was minding his own business?

Yes, the CPD is still trying to find the perpetrators in the Grove Street shootings from September 2021 that killed two women and injured five other women, and to nab all those involved in the McCallie Avenue incident last month in which three died and 14 were injured. But they also want to solve the more random shootings like that of Scoffield.

In each case, people know things they're not telling. They were there, or somebody told them something. Maybe they overheard something. They saw a car. They know about something that happened before the incident that may have a bearing on the case.

People say they don't want these things to keep happening in their neighborhoods, but they won't come forward and tell what they know. They're scared, and that's understandable. The police need to reassure the community that they will be safe, that their information will be confidential. The smallest morsel of information could help solve the case, and many times — as with Crime Stoppers — no one will ever know who made the call.

Cecil Scoffield's relatives — and those in other unsolved cases — need your help, and they need at least a measure of closure. If you know something, won't you help them out?

 

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