A decidely groggy, unwell-looking Matthew Owens, victim of a beating nine days ago in Mobile, AL, had finally been released from the hospital -- but less than 90 minutes ago he was returned to the hospital while looking glassy-eyed and complaining of headaches, dizziness, and a severe inability to "keep down" any food.
Meanwhile, it is still true that only one man has been arrested, and he is out on bail. Police say they expect no more than three more arrests, if that. Owens himself is not clear on how many people actually struck blows against him, reportedly, other than that at least three did so.
Further interviews today, with several black residents of the street, produced a cloudy picture. First, some background as described by the interviewees: At one and the same time, the block was described as usually friendly and as the site of several other horrid events in recent years. One man was stabbed to death two years ago (reportedly 14 stab wounds), and another man shot. But neighbors, black and white, also report little in the way of overtly racial feelings or disputes -- except as relates to Mr. Owens. One black resident said that Mr. Owens is usually "good as gold, man, good as gold" -- except when Owens has been drinking, a weakness that has shown up in several items on Mr. Owens' arrest record.
On the other hand, residents confirm the reports about black teens sometimes or often refusing to clear the street of their basketball games in order to let cars pass -- and they also, uniformly, accuse Mr. Owens of using the "n" word numerous times. One neighbor reported that police were called just two days before the beating to investigate a racially charged confrontation involving Mr. Owens, but one that involve no violence.
As it was, one direct witness (all these witnesses are black) who arrived at the scene about halfway through the assault said by the time he got there he observed only one man beating Mr. Owens. On the other hand, one black interviewee whose family member arrived on scene before the first blow was struck (but after the verbal confrontation had already escalated significantly) said the family member definitely observed an adult and a number of teens beating Mr. Owens. Repeat: Despite police reports to the contrary, this second-hand source does confirm that multiple attackers were directly involved. All interviewed (and there weren't a large number interviewed) said that at least 15 people were on the scene, but how many were just curious and how many were either involved directly in the violence or egging it on remains a point of dispute.
Not a single person denied that racial animus was involved, although most said that it stemmed from Owens' (alleged and not publicly disputed) use of the "n" word. (White witnesses said the racial epithets definitely came from at least some of those black people involved in the conflagration.) Everybody said the Trayvon Martin case certainly was not a motivating factor -- although it might, based on the public testimony so far, have affected the onlookers'/abetters' views or actions.
Interestingly, several outlets have reported that Owens' family members said Owens himself had a longtime black girlfriend and even had a tattoo with her name on it....
(Sorry for the lack of specificity or names in this report, but sometimes one gets a more honest, better overall composite understanding of an event if people know their identities will not be made known even indirectly.)
Should a "hate crime" be charged here? Probably not, but only because hate crimes as usually defined by the Left are bunk. But was there more direct evidence of racial animus here than there were in the Trayvon Martin case? Of course. But we don't hear President Obama commenting on his likeness of lack thereof to Mr. Owens, nor do we hear Attorney General Eric Holder weighing in. What's at issue here are double standards -- potentially deadly ones.
Exaggerating the racial implications involved is a horrible idea. But it's also dangerous to deny any of the racial aspects apparently involved, and to act as if racial problems run in only one direction, because that's the road both to "white backlash" and to potential black irresponsibility.
Nobody's cause is served by erasing some of the context from the official record. The residents of Delmar Drive to whom I have spoken, black and white alike, have been uniformly friendly and gracious. This is a community that wants peace. But peace comes uneasily when justice hasn't been done.
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