February 12, 2008: Brandon McInerny (14) heads to EO Green Middle school in Oxnard California carrying a .22 pistol in his backpack. After about fifteen minutes of staring down the kid in front of him in his first period computer lab, Brandon raises his gun and puts two in the back of the head of Lawrence (Larry) Fobes King (15). Brandon is picked up by police 7 minutes later walking about 7 blocks away from the school. Larry is taken to the hospital and pronounced brain dead, but kept alive for two days to harvest organs. He died on Valentine’s Day. So there it is, another sad school shooting complete with crying kids and video cameras. Unlike many shootings McInerny did not turn the gun on himself, instead he threw it on the ground and walked out of the school. He didn’t want to kill a bunch of kids, he just wanted to kill Larry. Now his fate belongs in the hands of the Juvenile Court.
But wait! This case is different!
Larry was a gender confused gay teen. He “came out” of the closet at age 10, and at EO Green sometimes wore dresses, high heels, and makeup.
This changed everything. Ventura County District Attorney made the decision to add 2 enhancements to the charges. One is an enhancement for the use of a gun in the crime, and the second is a hate crime enhancement since the victim was gay. Next, he dropped the big bomb: Brandon would be charged as an adult due to the “nature of the crime”.
How do they know that Brandon killed Larry because he was gay? He didn’t scream “DIE FAG!” when he pulled the trigger, and he has made no admissions or statements to authorities since he was arrested. There are some supporting facts surrounding the case that might lead one to assume he killed him for his sexuality, but is an assumption what counts? Assume for a moment that Brandon did hate gays and believed they all needed to be put to death… Why did he pick this gay kid?
The idea that Brandon killed Larry King simply for being gay is a convenient California (and now national) headline but it is unsubstantiated garbage. Brandon was not a loose cannon “looking for someone to hate”. He did have a motive though…
Larry believed that the best way to handle being different was to flaunt it. He proudly wore skirts and makeup,and carried handbags to school. A few days before the shooting Larry asked Brandon if he would be his Valentine. According to Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper this was the innocent advance of a gay teen with a crush. The only problem with that is that Larry knew it was an unwanted advance. He knew Brandon was not gay, in fact he was taunting Brandon because he knew Brandon hated it. He approached Brandon in front of a group of his friends and told him he loved him.
What exactly is the definition of sexual harassment, if this isn’t? What is the definition of bullying for that matter? Take yourself back to your 8th grade year just past puberty when young boys and girls are at their most insecure point in their lives, especially when it comes to sexuality. What could be a more devastating and humiliating point of vulnerability than an attack on sexual identity? There is no evidence of any bullying from Brandon towards Larry that was not in defense of unwanted sexual innuendo.
It is not reasonable to demand of an 8th grader the type of sexual security that could put him above this issue. You might expect an adult to be confident enough in who they are to simply ignore this barrage of insult and degradation but Brandon was 14 years old.
Brandon’s friends laid into him. “You’re going to have babies with Larry!” Brandon was already living in a chaotic world with a drug addicted mother who did not take care of him, and a father who drank and beat up the mother every chance he got. He sought order in his life and the one place that could have been a safe haven, school, became a terrifying experience for him at the hands of a bully in a skirt.
The school perpetuated the bullying. They were well informed of the distraction Larry was creating not only with Brandon, but in all of his classes. The school even had a uniform, a dress code common in public school these days. Why did the school allow Larry to wear skirts and makeup, when the uniform for boys was long pants and a golf shirt?
Openly lesbian assistant principal Joy Epstein and principal Sue Parsons shook in their bureaucratic boots at the thought of confronting the issue. They cited California hate crime laws when determining that enforcing the dress code in Larry’s case would have been discrimination based on sexual preference. Sue Parsons issued a memo to all teachers after being fully aware of Larry’s obnoxious behavior, and of tension between Brandon and Larry:
We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so. Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and non-judgmental. They don’t have to like it but they need to give him his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If you wish to talk further about it please see me or Joy Epstein
So it stood. A gay antagonist free to express himself at the expense of anyone in his way, which in this case happened to be the troubled Brandon McInerny, writing a book report on Adolph Hitler and talking about joining a skinhead gang. I wonder where all the anger came from?
I am not a proponent of violence in any case. I have a liberal side which shudders at the thought of anyone killing anyone when their life is not in danger. I also have a liberal side which believes that gays should be protected from discrimination. I believe gays are born gay, and they can live healthy productive lives. I despise the insistence that I “accept” any lifestyle, because I am a member of society with absolutely no choice but to accept all lifestyles. I am old enough to be past any identity crises I may have been exposed to and I am not in the least threatened by gays in my workplace or community.
I am repulsed though, by the perpetuation of discrimination by gays who insist on being persecuted when if they went about their existence the same way many of us do, both gay and straight, they would find people hate them to a much lesser degree than they imagined. Heterosexuals do not have a monopoly on sexual harassment, abuse, or bullying.
Brandon screwed up, and should face the consequences to the full extent of the law. That might even include being tried as an adult. The basis for that decision being the sexual identity of the victim is a frightening and crooked turn in the laws of our society.
If there is any case where a murderer at age 14 is treated as a juvenile and given the opportunity to rehabilitate, then this case should be treated the same. If the decision is that all 14 year-olds who murder are tried as adults, then so be it. Brandon should be locked up tight. If Brandon would have been treated differently for murdering a straight kid, then hate crimes do no more than elevate the value of the minority in society under the false pretense of equality for all.
Turn the tables for a minute though, and take sexual orientation out of it… (Isn’t that the true aim of civil rights and anti-discrimination?) Brandon was a troubled kid with plenty of family and home issues, being harassed, bullied, and humiliated by another kid with plenty of family and home issues. He murdered a 15 year old boy in cold blood. How would a juvenile court rule when there is not a nationwide headline and a gay civil rights coalition demanding blood?
I have my own reasons for belief in the ability of juvenile rehabilitation organizations to be successful. This is definitely debatable. What is not debatable is the value of a human life. This was a murder by a troubled 14 year-old. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no straight sad, and gay sad, just sad.
If this kid gets life, then they all need life. All crimes are hate crimes.