Distinguishing The Victims From The Abuser

Gilbert, PA
Gilbert, PA
Fire damage can be seen on the side of this house . The home was the scene of a standoff that ended with a man being fatally shot by state police after he earlier fired a shot that hit a state trooper in the head. During the standoff, he took his mother and two others hostage and set fire to the house. Keith R. Stevenson/Pocono Record

The mother of the Gilbert, PA man who was shot dead by police during a standoff Thursday said her son was a victim of bath salts and that the addictive hallucinogen ultimately drove him over the edge.

While I don’t purport to understand the mysteries of a mother’s love, and certainly sympathize with her tragic loss; I’m finding it difficult to agree with her contention that her son was the victim.

Maybe a twelve year old who, out of curiosity, had  mistakenly fallen prey to a widely known synthetic hallucinogen that mimics the effects of cocaine or methamphetamines (which they could legally purchase from a corner store) would have been a victim. But not a twenty-nine year old man who should have been, and was by all accounts, aware of the risks. He was not the victim here. He was the abuser.

I wish the bereaving mother had succeeded in getting her son into a rehab. Perhaps, then and there, they could’ve gotten to the root cause of, and the fix for, whatever was ailing him. Moreover; I wish the law, PA Senate Bill 1006, that made the sale of this toxic waste illegal had taken effect immediately, instead of sixty days after its signing. It would have been a clear violation of his parole.

Because it wasn’t, the police had no legal grounds upon which to arrest him. And because they couldn’t; a known drug abuser had the licensure to abuse his drug of choice, and the real victims became a women who was taken hostage by her own son in her own home, a State Trooper who was shot in the head, and the police officers who were forced to shoot and kill a twenty-nine year old man who I’m certain had no idea of what he was doing.

Oh yeah! And anyone else who’s anxiously waiting for August 23rd!

Right Place! Wrong Time?

Downtown Newark, NJI been in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time; or so goes the song by Dr. John. Maybe I was too, but who can really say? All I know is I walk into a drug store in downtown Newark a couple of weeks ago, looking for an old friend who, I’m told, was employed there. I’m a little anxious and uneasy because I haven’t seen this guy in almost twenty years. And even though I’m looking forward to the meeting, I am mindful that it’s not a social call. I’ve got some real bad news to deliver. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong!

The place is bustling with the typical five o’clock crowd, and the fact that I grew up in this city doesn’t stop me from feeling like the bastard step-child at a family reunion. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome escape from the stampeding suburbanites fleeing the city on the other side of the door. I eye the cashier, a weathered and withered old guy tending to a long line of customers, mostly women on cell phones. I walk past them hoping to spot someone who looks like they might be in charge, wondering how anyone could work here without losing their God forsaken mind and suddenly…


The sound is followed by a chorus of packages hitting the floor – bags, boxes, plastic containers – and a symphony of coins whirling around in countless spirals. The screaming started right after that.

Continue reading “Right Place! Wrong Time?”