Not all murders are equal. Or is it that not all murder victims are equal?

Not all murders are equal. Or is it that not all murder victims are equal?

Three men were shot and killed in Essex County over the weekend. Two in Newark.  One in Millburn, at the Short Hills Mall.

The first to die was Christopher Johnson, 46. He was found lying in the courtyard of a Broad Street building at about 8 pm Saturday night. Police were called in response to calls about shots fired.

NJ.COM, the news website that includes The Star-Ledger of Newark,  published  six paragraphs, 185 words,  about Johnson’s  death.  It provided no details about his life. Who he was, who his survivors were, where he might have worked.  Nothing.  NJ.COM, however, noted that, “The victim did not live in the building where he was found shot, according to Thomas Fennelly, chief assistant prosecutor with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. He could not say why the victim was there, or what motivated the shooting.”

The site ran, not a picture of the victim,  but a 2011 picture that included Cory Booker, no longer Newark’s mayor.

The second victim was an unidentified man who was shot to death Sunday night, also about 8 pm, at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and Clinton Avenue.  That shooting death, the 98th in Newark this year, was also described in a six-paragraph story on NJ.COM. It also ran 185 words and carried a picture of the acting Essex County prosecutor.  The story mentioned nothing about the victim’s age, employment, residence, survivors, or even much about  the circumstances of his death. No motive was offered.

One paragraph did mention the third person killed over the weekend. The Hoboken man who was shot and killed by someone who stole his car from one of the parking decks at the swank Short Hills Mall in Millburn. That shooting occurred within two hours of the shooting in Newark.

By Monday night, NJ.COM had published eight stories amounting to nearly 5,000 words about the killing in the mall. The first was published Sunday night. One update followed within hours, reporting the shooting victim had died. A second  provided the name of the victim, Dustin Friedland, and more  details.

Five more stories followed. The main news story Monday  reported the victim had struggled with his attackers. It ran with four other stories, often called “sidebars.”  One was a profile concentrating on the victim’s running. The second quoted neighbors about how nice a guy he was. A third described how Hoboken police were blocking access to the victim’s apartment. The last really had little to do with Friedland but reported on precautions at the Newport Mall in Jersey City.  The stories carried pictures of Friedland, a neighbor, his home, the scene of the shooting.

NJ.COM was not alone. Entering “Dustin Friedland” and   “Short Hills Mall” in Google yielded 41,400 results only 24 hours after the shooting occurred.  Christopher Johnson’s shooting death, seven.  The shooting of the unidentified man, one. There was no follow-up to the stories of the men killed in Newark. By anyone.

  1. I was remarking on this yesterday. Not to take away from the death of an innocent (rich, white) man, but the other deaths are equally important to the families of the victims, yet we pay scant attention.

    1. What a great point!! You really drove it home, as a reporter, by using this space to FILL IN all those blanks about Mr. Johnson and the second man, i.d.’d here as……never mind.

      Bob Braun: What the mainstream press doesn’t get is that everybody is us, not some of us are we and the others of us are them. A man sot in the courtyard of a Newark apartment is as much of a man as a man shot in a mall.

  2. I agree with both comments; no victims no matter of the crime should go unnoticed and should be treated equal not matter what race they are. What shocks me is that nowhere in the article does it mention the race of the other two victims and you Suzanne Libourel assumed their race!! How do you know they too were not “rich white” men? And if they were black and three white men shot them every activist around (al Sharpen, Rev Jackson, etc) would be all over the news protesting calling it a hate crime…..wonder why the when a “rich white man” get murdered by three black men no one protests or calls it a hate crime???? Just wondering

    Bob Braun: Sorry, but if you are familiar at all with Newark, it’s not much of a stretch to make the assumption Ms. Libourel made–but I didn’t mention the race of any of the men shot to death. Black men get murdered by white men with some frequency, especially in the drug trade, and I don’t see Sharpton or Jackson all over the news calling it a hate crime. When someone is murdered for their property, either a car or contraband, I would call it an economically-motivated crime. I frankly don’t think Mr. Friedland was singled out because of his race and, unless you have more information than I (which is possible), I don’t know the race of the person or persons who shot him. Nationally, 93 of black male murder victims are shot by other blacks and 85 percent of while male murder victims are shot by other whites.

    1. Mr. Braun,
      I agree that the Short Hills murder was probably not at all a Hate crime but still wonder if the races were turned if it would have been? I also understand lots of white men kill black men frequently but as you mentioned usually in the drug trade which never seems to capture the media’s attention anyway. My point was (and I guess I did a bad job expressing it) People are very quick at making opinions based on what they read and this is what turns it into Racial issue when in fact there was no racial intent to begin with. Do you believe if the victom at the Short Hills mall murder was of any other race it wouldnt have recieved less attention it did? I beleive it only recieved that much attention because it was another shooting in a mall or school which has been a popular crime these days. I am not trying to debate you because I know I will lose! I am a former college student of yours and have been following and respect your columns and didnt disagree at all with what you wrote, I just thought the comment from Suzanne is why we have some of the racial issues we have today.

      Bob Braun: I want my former students to win debates with me. It proves I was a good teacher.

  3. I just Googled “13-year-old Zainee Hailey,” who was shot taking out the garbage on Christmas, and I counted over 18 stories on the first two of 10 web pages. Then I Googled “18-year-old college freshman Reginald Terry,” also murdered in the same time frame, and found similar results. These heartbreaking murders of innocent victims most certainly are being covered in the news. Most cities in the US do not publish data on murder victim demographics – age, race, profession, family status, criminal record, etc. – so it’s pretty hard to get that information if it is not offered up by the victim’s friends, family, and social network in a public way (as it was with Dustin Friedland). That usually only happens if there are a lot of people telling how much of a loss the victim’s death is to family and friends. In the cases of Zainee and Reginald, their families grieve for them and speak publicly about them, and so we know a bit about them.

    But there’s another thing here that is obvious – Zainee and Reginald lived in a NJ city that had over 100 murders this year. The fact that there were murders in Newark was – tragically – not out of the ordinary. The murder at Short Hills Mall was most definitely out of the ordinary, and so it dominated the news at a time when people were going to the mall for Christmas and so it hit home for a lot more people. It is not impossible, but it was quite unlikely, that Dustin would have been murdered taking out the trash or being at a local pub in Hoboken, where he lived.

    Want murder victims to be known? Then talk about them to the media – tell how great they were and how innocent and how they had dreams and ambitions and talent and joy. And if your local environment tolerates lawlessness and murderous violence from its citizens, then work to change the local attitudes toward it and the culture that fosters it.

  4. This is nothing new.
    Police have always been motivated by bias, prejudice and hatred.
    Police will always pursue crimes more thoroughly when the victim is white or female rather than male. Females have always been given more preference, and males have always been treated as second class citizens in the criminal justice system. So much for equal treatment.

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