When Should An Accident Be A Crime?

“Now it is time to forgive and comfort him.”  – 1 Corinthians 2:76 NLT

“Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.” – Charles Dickens

      A few weeks ago, in Des Moines, Iowa, a police officer left his K-9 partner in the car on a hot day, went into the police station and forgot about him. When he remembered, he ran outside and found the dog dead.

      I was saddened by the article in the Des Moines Register. I knew that it would create a flurry of attention and it did. There was an investigation and the officer was suspended for a few days. There were, of course, those who cried out that there should have been criminal charges relating to cruelty to animals, but there were none. Nor do I feel there should have been.

      It was an accident, not callous disregard for the welfare of this animal who was more than an animal to the man. He was his partner. Justice would not have been served by bringing charges against the officer.

      In the same paper several weeks prior to that was another story about a young man who tied a dog in his backyard without water for several days. That dog also died and that young man was charged, although in this case it seemed appropriate since the man knowingly left the dog helpless and without water for three days.

      In the October 16th Des Moines Register, another tragic death was reported. This did not involve a dog but rather a 16-year-old boy named Corey Hamilton, Jr. A group of friends were playing with a gun that they believed to be empty. It was not. The bullet they did not see when they emptied the gun was in the chamber and when Dontavius Sharkey pointed the gun at Corey’s head and jokingly pulled the trigger, the life of one boy ended and the life of another was altered forever.

      Dontavius was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. The district attorney wants to try him as an adult. Corey Hamilton’s mother doesn’t want him charged at all since she sees it for what it is: a horribly stupid game that resulted in the completely accidental death of a young boy’s best friend. Corey’s mother sees the truth in the fact that nothing further can be gained since Dontavius has already been sentenced to a lifetime of carrying with him the knowledge that a moment of careless play took the life of a young man and he was responsible.

      To the mother who sees no crime in the accident that has taken her son I say, “God bless you and thank you for seeing the real truth at the heart of is senseless tragedy.   And to the man who so callously and foolishly believes that there is some sort of justice to be served by not only prosecuting the unfortunate young man who pulled the trigger but trying him as an adult as well I say, “I pray that if you have children, they will never indulge in completely childish, irresponsible behavior that ends in a tragedy. However, if they do, I also pray that the decision on how to deal with them falls into the hands of someone with more common sense and compassion than you.”

      This young man’s life has been forever changed. Gone, for the foreseeable future, is his ability to smile, to be young and to experience the joys of youth. Gone forever is his friend, Corey.

      I do not know the prosecutor’s name nor do I care. He is a misguided individual who obviously needs a lesson in what constitutes crime and what constitutes tragedy. Crime is punished by the law. Tragedy has its own way of punishing people. Dontavius Sharkey is in the process of realizing that now.

      Stupid people should never be allowed hold positions of power – even little ones. This man gives the concept of justice a bad name and should find a new line of work.

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