Saturday, March 23, 2013

Baby Shot in Stroller, 2013: Echoes of Susan Smith, 1994

Updates at this label: Baby Antonio

What a horrific story, "Baby Shot Dead in Stroller"! On the video later in this post, you will see Sherry West, the mother of a 13-month old boy in Brunswick, Georgia, who was shot in the face and died instantly. West says that Baby Antonio was shot by two young black males (ages 14 and 17).

Sadly, it's possible that it happened just as the mother said it did, and yes, yes, I'm outraged and sad. If the boys did what West claims, they must be punished. But as you many have already guessed by my use of the word if, I'm not yet sure that these boys should be the target of anyone's outrage yet. These boys, though they definitely are real and not phantoms, may merely be serving in the mother's story as the mysterious black man.

Oh, no! You may be thinking that this black blogger is horrible. How can that blogger possibly suggest that the mother would make up such a horrific story about her baby? Surely a mother would not make up trying to give her baby CPR at a blue house on the corner after he'd been brutally shot in the face? How can that blogger doubt the poor woman?

I'll tell you how: Susan Smith, South Carolina, 1994.

In 1994, Susan Smith, a white woman who seemed much more genuinely distraught than West does in the video below, went crying before television cameras pleading for the return of her two young children. She claimed that a black man had abducted them, but it turned out that Susan Smith was lying. She had killed her own children; she had locked them in their car seats and rolled her car into a South Carolina lake. Then she blamed who she thought would be a believable suspect, the mysterious black man.

The sheriff in Susan Smith's case, a white man, played along, but in reality, he doubted her story from the beginning, and so did I back then.

In the current case of Sherry West, the two boys she described have now been arrested:
Chief Tobe Green of the Brunswick Police Department said that Demarquis Elkins, 17, and a 14-year-old unidentified suspect whose name has been withheld because of his age, were arrested early this morning in connection with the baby's death, and both have been charged with first-degree murder.
I don't know whether Brunswick's Sheriff Tobe Green (a black man) doubts West's story. He may be inclined to believer her since times have changed since 1994. Almost every time you turn on local evening news in some cities, it seems that a black male pops up who's been involved with a shooting. So, it may be more difficult these days for some police officers to think of young black males as innocent until proven guilty. But I hope the law enforcement officers in this case will also recall that young black males are most often shooting each other, not white women and their babies.

Green is also in a different power dynamic than the South Carolina sheriff was. It may be more difficult for a black sheriff in a southern town to launch a full investigation that challenges the story of a white mother. I'm not saying that it is more difficult, but that it may be.

Another factor that comes to my mind is that Brunswick, Georgia, is not Chicago or New Orleans or Philadelphia or Camden, New Jersey. Brunswick, Georgia, is a small town. Is it possible that West has seen these young men elsewhere? Is it possible that these boys, who may be known trouble makers in town, are only guilty of skipping school that day?

Also, here's a good question that one of my friends asked on Facebook when I said this story reminds me of the Susan Smith tragedy: "There is something strange about a mother talking that way, with that level of organized detail, after she supposedly saw her baby shot in the head. CPR? And why would they be cold-blooded enough to shoot a baby but not kill the only witness to their deed? A lot of this doesn't make sense."

Another friend commented, "Sooooo much detail voluntarily at this time of grief, looking down as she tells the story."

West's story seems even stranger for another reason: its timing. What a coincidence that this crime happened so soon after a Chicago story about another baby being shot by black males "while her dad was changing her diaper." As it turns out, the diaper change part of that tragedy is not true, and already the police are turning back on the father suggesting he has gang ties. Either way, a baby is dead.

But I cannot dismiss all the media attention that the Chicago story received and that Ms. West, like so many others, must have heard the story, too. She may have heard the story, as many others have, and sensed the outrage and recognized the sympathy directed at Baby Jonyla's parents. Baby Jonyla is the 6-month-old pictured at the left.

Whether I'm very wrong here or very right, I do not know. Either way, another baby is dead.

In the meantime, over at websites such as the Huffington Post, visitors are quick to call for the execution of these black boys and label them savages. So much for innocent until proven guilty in America. And I continue to think of Susan Smith and other cases in which a white female accused black males of crimes they did not commit.

Lest anyone think I'm having these thoughts simply because I am black, I'll point out that I'm not the only person who thinks of Susan Smith as they hear about little Antonio's death. Others, both black and white, who recall the Smith case have been thinking that the West tragedy feels strangely familiar as you can see at this forum discussion. Also, in the video below from the Brunswick police department's press conference before the arrest of the boys, I get the sense that not everyone in that town buys the mother's story.

The rumors are flying, one official indicates in the video, and we are all very very sad. Whatever the facts turn out to be in this case, our society has a tragedy to work through: Another baby is dead.

Related, new post:  CNN reports of this story versus Atlanta Journal Constitution story.


Mary Waldmann said...

I am not considering race in my opinion because I didn't know the teens were black until I read you blog. But I am also wondering if the mother was involved. I thought that the first time I saw her on the news. I wondered again today when I read an article showing the teens had been arrested. The article said that the mother had bags filled with the baby's clothes and diapers to give to charity. I thought "well that's awfully quick". Wouldn't you want to hold on to those things if your child has just been murdered? The last thing I would be thinking about is getting rid of them.

JustJ1970 said...

I'm almost in tears as I read your position on the mother whose baby was shot, because I too believe this is a "Susan Smith" story. I said it from the very beginning when her interview aired on CNN, I was in my office and had to get up from my chair and go look at the t.v. in the lobby to see who this woman is giving ALL THESE DETAILS when her baby had been shot just hours earlier?? I'm a mother and if anything (heaven forbid) were to happen to my son, CNN could not get an interview from me that day, if I could speak I wouldn't remember ***the blue house with the gate, or that the gun looked fake but then real or that the smaller boy was hiding behind the bigger boy and I wondered if it was his brother or his friend*** I still maintain something is fishy here; now the 17 year young man who has been accused has his Aunt speaking out saying that he was with her during the morning until afternoon when he left to go to classes where he is getting his GED, could this be the reason he's not on the attendance roster at school? I want to hear the evidence that has been found, where is the gun???

Jan said...

A robber would want to kill the mother, to make sure she could not identify him in a lineup.

Nothing about this story makes sense. And there are no eye witnesses.

I firmly believe the mother is lying about something. Why hasn't she taken a polygraph test?

Gena said...

Two teen age boys shoot a baby. For what reason?

The baby had no money, credit cards or Ganja. Babies can't testify. By their nature they cannot be witnesses.

Why shoot a baby in the face? That is an act of supreme anger and intent. There are people who can do this. God forbid if these are two of the teens that can do it but doesn't seem to add up.

Getting rid of the babies clothes? Most women couldn't even form that thought after losing their child.

Too much missing info. I'm in caution mode on this one.

Karen said...

I was instantly reminded of Susan Smith when I saw this! This chick tried to save her purse but not her baby she did't attempt to shield him at all. A real mom would have fought to the death for her child. I wouldn't be surprised if daddy was also involved in murdering this precious baby.

Moon Rattled said...

The mother is crying and yet not shedding a single tear in that video. She appears to me to be manufacturing a story. I simply don't believe her. Additionally, her first son died a violent death in the street. If I were the police, I'd be looking closely at her... The black kid they charged has an alibi which the police are ignoring.

Moon Rattled said...

The mother is crying and yet not shedding a single tear in that video. She appears to me to be manufacturing a story. I simply don't believe her. Additionally, her first son died a violent death in the street. If I were the police, I'd be looking closely at her... The black kid they charged has an alibi which the police are ignoring.

Anonymous said...

I happen to be a white guy who also happens to be in full agreement with you on this. When this horrible story broke the other day and I began reading West's account, my first thought was the Susan Smith murders. I do believe something isn't right here, and I promise to be brief with my thoughts.
First of all, Sherry West is over the top descriptive in her account. That struck me as incredibly suspicious considering what she had just gone through. And I know this sounds horrible, but her tears seemed to come and go on demand.
Also, it's hard for me to believe these boys would kill the baby but not the mother, who would be able to identify them. And really, the motive was money? For an addict, yeah.
This is a horrible story however it turns out, but I just have a feeling there is more to come.
Thank you for allowing me to ramble. Peace.

crash said...

i refuse to view any of the video of ms. west. i'm confining myself to print coverage only. and to my mind there's no question, this sad tale has susan smith written all over it. it will likely be some time before the truth comes out, but i know this much - black boys don't shoot white babies in the head. and infant homicide is almost always - overwhelmingly so - committed by a parent or other close family member.

mypitts2 said...

Just an FYI: The adult daughter of Sherry West has her doubts, too.

Full story here:

From the story:

"The daughter of Sherry West, Ashley Glassey, said she does not want to falsely accuse anyone but she wants the truth.

"Glassey, 21, lives in New Jersey and said her mother lost custody of her when she was 8. She said she has forgiven her mom and has spoken to her every day since Thursday's shooting but said some of her mother's responses have her concerned.

"Glassey said she started to have her doubts after receiving a phone call from her mother telling her that her brother, Antonio Santiago, had been killed. She claims the night of the shooting her mother asked, "How soon do you think life insurance policy will send me a check?"

Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

Sherry West seems to have a history of mental confusion, so that may be why her story doesn't sound true.

More information coming out in the case suggests that the boys really may have committed this heinous crime.

Read more at my latest update.

kushibo said...

Lest anyone think I'm having these thoughts simply because I am black, I'll point out that I'm not the only person who thinks of Susan Smith as they hear about little Antonio's death.

I am not Black, but this story reminds me of Susan Smith. It also reminds me a bit of Charles Stuart, for the reason of being a high-profile case in which an atrocious crime was committed by a mysterious Black perp.

The thing with these phantom Black perpetrators is that they often turn into actual Black arrestees. In fact, it seems like "some Black guy" is often to blame for crimes committed by someone close to the situation (I guess this view is informed by the story of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird, a character based on real-life defendants of author Harper Lee's real-life father on whom Atticus Finch was based).

And it's an easy sell. Perhaps one of the most profound things I took away from my childhood is the huge gap between my perception of Black people, having spent the first half of my childhood living in then nearly all-Black Compton, and that of most of the Whites (and Asians) living around me in nearly completely non-Black Orange County, where I spent the second half of my childhood. To me, Black people were just people, amongst them good friends, friendly neighbors, helpful folks, bullies, classmates, etc. To my fellow OCers, Blacks were a caricature of tough, criminally inclined, low-achieving poor people who couldn't resolve their own problems.

For them, it's an easy sell that Trayvon Martin was a menace to the guy that actually had the gun and was chasing down the unarmed guy. And it's an easy sell that Black youths (in general even) are capable of horrific crimes like this one where a baby was killed. Susan Smith's words probably also rung true, as did Michael Stuart's.

Requiescat in pace, young Antonio West.