If you’re an unarmed black teen in Florida, someone can gun you down – and they might get away with it
This was some battle going on in that car, a cage match of warring colognes. Tevin Thompson, tall and soft-cheeked, had basted himself in Curve, swiped from the back of his parents’ dresser, where the old man kept his more expensive smell-goods. Leland Brunson, small and snarky, the runt of the four-kid crew, was bumping Chanel and a couple of clashing lotions and smelled like mixed inserts from three men’s mags. Jordan Davis, the prince – he of the red-hot girlfriend and every fly snapback sold online – was drenched in Armani and looking right. And Tommie Stornes, at the wheel of his Durango – well, who ever knew what Tommie was wearing? He kept the whole scent counter at Macy’s in his car. True, he’d taken hours to get coifed and dressed to go girl-hunting at the mall, but as these boys liked to say, you can’t rush greatness.
They hit the Town Center mall around 5 p.m. and found it hip-to-hip with Christmas shoppers. On this, the first evening after Thanksgiving, all of Jacksonville was out and about, walking of the torpor of candied yams at the fanciest galleria in northern Florida. The boys did their best impression of premium shoppers, four well-raised black teens from middle-class homes trying hard to stand out by blending in. They talked to – but whiffed with – a few of the upscale “honeys,” browsed the stores for high-priced sneakers that they mostly owned already (Tevin bought a new pair every payday; Jordan, who’d just landed his first after-school job, was breaking his father’s wallet with his shoe game) and began to make their way toward the exits. Then Jordan spotted Aliyah, his beautiful, on-off girlfriend, who was finishing up her shift at Urban Outfitters. They’d been on the rocks for weeks over the silliest teenage nonsense – he’d bought roses on her birthday but wouldn’t bring them to school, convinced his friends would clown him till graduation. Now, though, she smiled at him, and Jordan’s heart went clattering around his rib cage. “They needed to get back together so he’d stop talking about her,” says Tevin. “Every . . . single . . . day, it was Aliyah this, Aliyah that. We’re all like, ‘Damn it, dude: Just call her already.'”
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And so now it was 7:00, and they were driving back to Jordan’s to play Xbox on his father’s big TV. A couple of miles away, they stopped at a Gate gas station so Tommie could run in for a pack of Newports. They were blasting Chief Keef through the half-down windows and busting on Jordan about Aliyah when a black Jetta pulled into the spot beside them. A woman got out and ducked into the store; the driver, a crew-cut moose of a white man named Michael David Dunn, cracked his window and told them to turn the noise down. “I hate that thug music,” he had griped to his girlfriend before he sent her in to buy some wine and chips; Rhonda Rouer would tell detectives the next day that that was a “common” complaint of Dunn’s. They had just come from the wedding of Dunn’s only son and had left the reception early to get back to the hotel so he could walk their newly bought puppy.
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Tevin, in the front passenger seat, dialed the music down, but Jordan, sitting behind him, wouldn’t have it. Unbelting himself, he reached across the console to crank the volume up. He and Dunn went at it, peppering f-bombs at each other. “You’re not gonna talk to me like that!” yelled Dunn, reaching across the dash to his glove compartment. Tommie had come back and was strapping himself in when he saw a gun through the window of Dunn’s car. “Duck!” he yelled and grabbed for the shifter when the first three shots hit his car. Several more rounds whacked the car as Tommie floored it backward and peeled out. He broke left, past the gas pumps, while bullets winged by. Dunn, half out of his Jetta and firing two-fisted, kept shooting at the fleeing Durango; one bullet pierced the liftgate and another clipped the visor, missing Tommie’s skull by an inch.
He drove a hundred yards into the adjacent shopping plaza, stopped in front of a sandwich shop and jumped out to check on his friends. Tevin was somehow fine – his door had stopped the slugs. Leland, sitting behind Tommie, was OK too, though his hands and sleeves were wet with fresh blood. Jordan, however, was slumped in his lap. The first three shots had gone through his door; two of them lodged in his chest and groin. His eyes rolling back, he gasped for air as the three friends shrieked for help. “Jordan was making that rattle people make when they’re dying,” says Tevin. “That’s when Leland started to cry. I hugged him and tried to tell him it’d be OK.”
Tevin dialed 911, but someone had beaten him to it: The strip mall was packed with stunned bystanders. Two of them jotted down the Jetta’s plate number as Dunn tore of, speeding up Southside Boulevard. Soon, the Gate gas station bristled with sirens: cops securing the crime scene and taking statements, collecting a dozen firsthand accounts; medics working feverishly to keep Jordan breathing as they loaded him into the ambulance; and detectives comforting his stricken friends, particularly Leland, who couldn’t stop sobbing. Jordan was his best friend; they all but lived at each other’s houses. “Jordan was my third son – I loved that boy,” says Tanya Booth-Brunson, Leland’s mother. “He had this shine on him that lit up the room. He was a star, and everyone knew it.”
Shortly before noon the following day, deputies knocked on a door in Satellite Beach, three hours south down 95. Dunn, a computer programmer and gun enthusiast who’d fired his first rifle at three, stepped out onto the stoop of his beachfront condo. Fully six four and 280 pounds, he greeted the cops with the convivial air of a long-lost beer-league pal. In the interview box at the downtown precinct, he sloughed off the reading of his Miranda rights. According to Jordan’s father, Dunn said he didn’t need a lawyer, telling the detectives: They defied my orders. What was I supposed to do if they wouldn’t listen? Appalled, the cops booked him on the spot, and he was eventually charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
But several days after the shooting, Dunn told the world through his hastily hired lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, that he fired 10 shots in a crowded shopping plaza because he felt threatened by the boys. They were gang members calling their gang buddies, said Lemonidis; Dunn had to act fast, before they did. Also, they were men piling out of the car, not high school boys cringing in terror. And third, there was this, thrown in for good measure: Dunn was sure he saw a shotgun aimed at him through the right rear window of the boys’ car. (Damningly, though, he didn’t tell his girlfriend about a gun before his arrest.) And with that, nine months after the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Gunshine State of Florida had spawned a second grotesque fraud: the killing of a defenseless black kid by an armed, angry white man invoking the worst law in America – the Stand Your Ground statute of self-defense.
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Stevie Wonder won’t be performing in Florida anytime soon.
In the wake of the George Zimmerman acquittal, the singer said he would not be performing in the Sunshine State until its Stand Your Ground law is “abolished.” He also said he would not be performing in any other state that recognizes the law, which some say contributed to Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012.
“I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again,” Wonder said Sunday while performing in Quebec City. “As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
George Zimmerman’s recent acquittal in the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked widespread protests and reactions across the country, with many of Hollywood’s elite leveraging their social influence to add their voices in response to the trial’s verdict.
Actor Lance Gross is the latest celebrity to weigh in on the jury’s decision. Gross took to his Instagram account on Sunday to share an open letter, written by Alex Fraser, that was addressed to the 29-year-old former neighborhood watchman:Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder for fatally shooting the teen on Saturday evening. Following the verdict, the Department of Justice released a statement on Sunday detailing that they’re continuing to evaluate whether federal prosecutors should file criminal civil rights charges against the neighborhood watchman.
Some people are too quickly satisfied with Jesus’ blessings, others are never satisfied with Jesus’ blessings. These extreme types remind me of two stories.
A food editor of the local newspaper received a telephone call from a woman inquiring HOW LONG to cook a 22-pound turkey. “Just a minute,” said the food editor, turning to consult a chart. “Thank you very much,” replied the novice cook, and hung up!
In a region of Mexico HOT AND COLD SPRINGS are found side by side. Because of the convenience of this natural phenomenon the women often bring their laundry, boil their clothes in the hot spring and then rinse them in the cold spring. A tourist watching this procedure commented to his Mexican guide, “They must think mother nature is generous to freely supply such ample clean hot and cold water.” The guide replied, “No, señor, there is much grumbling because she does not supply the soap.”
hopeless and depressed group of lepers had huddled together outside one of the many villages on the border of Samaria and Galilee. They were marked men and possibly women, for their inflamed, scaly, splotchy skin condemned them as people to be avoided. Their common misery forced different races of outcast together, in spite of inter-racial hatred, as, in a flood, wolves and sheep will huddle close on a spot of high ground.
It was a despised fellowship drawn together in mutual wretchedness and in permanent separation from others. [They were outcast like many in third world countries who have AIDS are today.] Into this deplorable seemly hopeless scene walks Jesus and lives are given the opportunity to change. Those lives that day sought and received external physical change for that was all they were after. Being satisfied they went on their way. Those that did missed out on the greatest blessing Jesus offers to the one who returns to Him.
May I ask you a personal question? Have you too been satisfied with the external blessings that you have received from Jesus and gone on about your life? Or, in your gratitude, have you returned to Him and received an internal change that is eternal and for which you are continually grateful?
I. THE LEPERS’ CRY, 12-14a.
II. THE HEALING OF THE OBEDIENT, 14b.
III. THE RETURN OF THE THANKFUL, 15-16.
IV. THE LORD’S REACTION, 17-19.
While Jesus was headed toward His crucifixion He passed through Samaria. The Jews had no dealings nor friendship with these mix breeds and considered that even meeting them made one [ceremonially] unclean. But it seems that the diseased and afflicted of all races joined together in leper colonies. Verses 11-13 begin the story of the encounter Jesus had with ten lepers. “And it came about while He was on the way to Jerusalem; that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a certain village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Levitical law prescribed the distance that lepers were to be separated from non-infected people (Lev. 13:38-46; Num. 5:2-4). Thus in order to be heard they had to cry aloud. It must have been an effort for one of the effects of leprosy is a hoarse whisper. Desperate need though often gives the body heightened physical power.
Their cry for mercy indicates that they had some knowledge of Jesus. They had heard stories of the Compassionate Healer that ministered health to those with incurable physical debilities. They had heard He was coming or perhaps they recognized Him, but in any case they addressed Him from afar.
They called Him by name, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us.” The word Master in the Greek means “Chief Commander”[ έπιστάτα -epistáta]. They recognized that Jesus was commander and chief even over disease. The question was would Jesus have mercy. Would one such as He help those such as them? Those who have been beaten down by people and difficult circumstances in life don’t often find persons capable and compassionate enough to help.
So they cry out for mercy because in Him they experienced a germination of hope and faith touching them in their desperate need. But even their dire situation had not caused them to look at their deeper even more serious need, so they called out for Him to meet their physical need. They want Jesus to be nothing more than a fixer of life, a healer of body and circumstances. As earthy and fleshy as their desires were, they did open themselves up to Jesus so that His mercy could touch them. Jesus’ mercy is ever ready to flow into every situation and life, just as water naturally flows to the lowest levels.
The answer to the ten lepers comes quickly from what we discover in verse 14a. “And when He saw them, He said to them, Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
Jesus seems to have approached the lepers for it was when He saw, not when He heard, that He spoke to them. Jesus was not one to cry aloud in the streets, nor does He simply cure from afar but He draws near to those He heals that they may see His kind face and be touched by His compassion and love.
His command to show themselves to the priests recognized and honored the law (Lev. 14:1-32), as the unclean had to be declared clean to reenter society. But the main purpose of His command was no doubt to test and thereby to strengthen the lepers’ faith. For them to set out to the priests while they saw and felt themselves full of leprosy would seem absurd, unless they believe that Jesus could and would heal them. He gives no promise that He would heal but asks for obedience and in the obedience there was the implication of healing. He utters no outward word of sympathy. His compassion is not released through His words or treatment. He simply speaks a command. [Maclaren, Alexander. Expositions of Holy Scripture. Baker. Grand Rapids. 1974. pp. 128-129.]
You too may be told to be obedient and never experience the compassion that Jesus has for you. Yet never doubt that His direct commands come from a heart of love. We too will sometimes be asked to act on the assumption that Jesus will grant our request even when we see no evidence of it. We too will sometimes need to set out in obedience as we, so to speak, still feel the leprosy or affliction.
II. THE HEALING OF THE OBEDIENT, 14b.
In the second half of verse 14 we learn what occurred on the walk to Jerusalem. “And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed.”
The ten of them set off at once. They had gotten the word they wanted from the Lord and thought little more about Him. So they turned their backs on Him and headed off. How strange the experience must have been. For as they walked in obedience to His command they begin to feel the gradual creeping sense of soundness returning to their bodies! How much more joyful and confident their steps must have been as health returned and asserted itself in their bodies! The cure is sent forth in silence from Christ. His very thought and their obedience to His word effected the cure. He willed, and as they walked in obedience to His word, it was done.
The lepers responded in faith and Jesus healed them on the way. Many times our spiritual, mental, emotional and yes physical healing comes to us as we respond in faith to Jesus’ forth-right commands. Be it to wash in the Jordan [2 Kings 5:1-14] or to minister the Word of life to a neighbor or in far off Africa, we need to heed His word to us. Is your trust in God so strong that you will act on what He says even before you see evidences that it will work? I hope we do not need to be reduced to the desperate need of a leper to be so inclined.
III. THE THANKFUL RETURN, 15-16.
Verse 15 records the one recipient with a responsive, grateful soul. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice.”
One man was moved by gratefulness to acknowledge the significance of what had been done for him. When he realized that he was healed, thanksgiving and praise awakened within him. So he turns back to offer praise. Was it disobedient to turn back to give thanks? It is never disobedient to be thankful. A grateful heart knows that its first and highest duty is to give thanks. How like us all this scene is. God does something marvelous and we hurry away clutching our blessings and never cast a thought back to the Giver!
What a miracle had occurred. The awful incurable disease that had rob them of life and isolated them from life was taken away in a simple act of obedience. You might have expected all ten to return rejoicing and praising Jesus and thanking Him for a new start in life, but only one does. This leper’s voice had returned to Him and His loud public praises were very different from the strained croak of his plea for healing. He knew that he had two to thank, God and Jesus. He did not yet realize that these two were one.
Verse 16 continues to tell of the exuberant thankfulness of the responsive soul. “And he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.”
Because of His healing he can come much nearer to Jesus now. So he runs to Jesus and falls at His beautiful feet. At the feet of Jesus in a posture of worship he pours out the love in his heart with thanksgiving. Thankfulness brings us close to Jesus and knits our heart to Him.
Jesus healed all ten lepers, but only one returned to thank Him. It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit–nine of the ten men did so. Only the thankful man, however, learned that his faith had played a role in his healing; and only grateful Christians grow in understanding God’s grace. God does not demand that we thank Him, but He is pleased when we do so. He then uses our responsiveness to teach us more about Himself.
Jesus notices those who come back to say, “Thank you.” In fact, according to Malachi 3:16, what we say concerning the things the Lord has done for us, His blessings to us, His faithfulness to us are written in a Book of Remembrance. Some parents keep a book in which to record their children’s first words, first steps, and growth. So, too, the Lord keeps a books recording the words, walk, and growth of His children. The question is, how big is yours? I suggest the Lord needs many volumes to contain the thanksgiving of some of His kids. For others, a single pamphlet will do.
When a prostitute began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair, Jesus said to his host, “When I came into your home, you didn’t greet Me with a kiss or wash My feet”—which means that Jesus not only notices what people do, but what they fail to do for Him (Luke 7:44–46). How many blessings has the Lord given me today without my even pausing to say “Thank You”? [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson’s Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 386.]
Again Luke points out that the grace of God is for everybody. This new man was a Samaritan. A race despised by the Jews as pagan idolatrous half-breeds. The heathen and the rejected who have no reason to expect mercy often are deeply touched by kindness when others who always think they deserve more are never grateful for what they do receive.
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