Previous post here.
Today, the AJC released a police sketch of one of the robbers in the big local crime story this week. Michael and Whitney Lash, homeowners in a gentrifying neighborhood, came home from vacation, whereupon four young men showed up and tried to rob them, shooting Mr. Lash and wounding him seriously, and waving a gun at Ms. Lash, who was holding the baby. At the time, I bemoaned how difficult this sort of thing is when it comes to writing crime fiction, because the criminals are usually really, really dumb. Let’s take a look at this guy:
Look carefully. The guy has a piercing in the middle of his forehead. Now, I’m no criminal mastermind, but I’d like to think that if I were going to shoot people in the femur and wave a gun at a baby, I’d either wear a mask or take the dang thing out. I’m not trying to belittle the Lashes’ suffering, which is real and considerable, nor the structural economic and racial issues that underlie this sort of crime. But this? It just can’t be turned into fiction.
It also kills another potential way to write a story about the situation. We might, when writing a piece of fiction, have it be one of the spouses (note: fictional spouses, not the Lashes) hire some local thugs to kill the other for… insurance money, or one of the usual motivations in such cases. But the spouses would have bought a house and gone on vacation, which means they can breathe without being reminded to, which means neither of them would be stupid enough to hire this guy. Who, we should keep in mind, we the taxpayers of Georgia are going to spend at least half a million dollars dealing with, once we add in investigation, trial and incarceration.
So if this is going to become a piece of crime fiction, it needs to step back from the specifics and look at the general situation. How does our society keep managing to create people like this man? Why can’t we stop them before they shoot a guy? What, other than sheer stupidity, makes them do something like this? Keep in mind that gentrifier types pay for everything with cards, not cash, and that the typical return on stolen items to the thief is about ten percent. Robbing people is at best a minimum-wage job.