Right now, we can't truly process what's going on. We have been constantly surrounded by information since Saturday night, and that information has been heartbreaking. When members of the Auburn family, football players or not, are taken away in such a pointless manner, the entire community feels it.
Ladarious Phillips, Edward Christian and Demario Pitts were all 20 years old when their lives abruptly and tragically ended. They were still very young, just barely out of their teen years, which is one of the most disheartening aspects of this incident. Their families are undoubtedly caught up in whirlwind of inconsolable grief, confusion, anger and depression.
We owe it to the victims' families to show as much respect as possible. We also owe a great deal of respect to the family of John Robertson, who is fighting for his life at the hospital at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
However, we also need to show respect to the family of the alleged shooter, Desmonte Leonard.
The unfortunate truth is we don't know exactly what led to the shooting. The supposed eyewitness from the party has no real credibility. Police agencies said there is a high possibility Leonard committed the crime. That is all we have to go on because they will not release the motive or the specific details from the night of the party.
What we don't need is all of the hyped-up hatred virally flooding the Internet in personal blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, message boards, and unreliable websites. This has only become a catalyst for negativity supported by the democratic right to free speech.
The comment sections on sites like al.com are cluttered with racist hate speech calling for the immediate street execution of Leonard. This kind of speech is counterproductive and distracting.
Whoever started the false Leonard Twitter account should be ashamed of his or her deplorable actions. You are not funny, and your attempts to seek attention serve only as a display of your ignorance and lack of empathy.
The “Free Woosie” trend is equally repugnant. This situation has nothing to do with race or a police conspiracy. Anyone, black or white, who thinks so is in dire need of psychiatric care.
The shooting is not about you. It’s not about your insane logic, and it’s not about your stupidity. All you should be focusing on is respect and humility. When people like you start crying for attention, you make us all look bad.
We need some perspective. We are all saddened by this senseless loss of life. However, we do not condone the propagation of violence, and we certainly don't believe in the degradation of the justice system, as flawed as it may be.
This is not a time for personal agendas, especially collegiate alliances, and racist ignorance.
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said during Sunday’s press conference, “This is not about Auburn University football players. These young men are all victims of a brutal shooting.”
Whenever violence like this happens, people are quick to take sides.
Some choose the side of street justice, others choose to use the opportunity to make their personal beliefs known. Debate over gun laws are being thrown around; the struggles of young black men in America takes a spotlight; and issues of personal safety are drawn up.
These arguments all have valid points, but it is not appropriate or respectful to the families of those involved to turn their sorrow into a sounding board.
Situations like Saturday night’s shooting remind us of these issues, and it is not our place to tell you what to think. What we ask for is a show of respect and thoughtful support for the families of the victims and fairness to the families of the suspects.
Our sincerest hope is that if Leonard is indeed guilty, due justice will be served. After the fruitless standoff in Montgomery, we are thankful he is finally in custody.
The Auburn community is in mourning. We are weeping for three young men who deserved better, and we are shocked at the violent disruption of the peacefulness of our community.
Chief Dawson said, “We need to learn the value of human life again,” and we couldn't agree more.