I speak with a friend who is more liberal than me weekly. We see some things differently and others similarly. Somehow we manage never to raise our voices. We worry about how divided the country has become and wonder what it will take to unite the factions.

The events that have transpired over one week suggest the country has gone over a cliff. The following incidents took place between April 13 and 21.

These aren’t about division. These developments reflect a country that has gone crazy.

1. In Kansas City, an 84-year-old man, Andrew Lester, shot a teenager, who was picking up his younger brothers, went to the wrong house, and rang the doorbell. Lester shot sixteen-year-old Ralph Yarl, an honor student, in the head and arm. Yarl ran to multiple homes and passed out before receiving help. 

Media reports state Yarl heard Lester yell, “Don’t come around here,” according to police documents. Lester, who is white, told police “he was scared to death” and thought the teen, who is black, was trying to break in. Instead of calling the police or warning the teen to leave, Lester fired his weapon twice. Fortunately, Yarl is expected to make a full recovery. Lester was charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

There is a GoFundMe page for those who would like to help with Yarl’s medical expenses.

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2. In a rural area of upstate New York, Kevin Monahan, 65, shot and killed a twenty-year-old woman, Kaylin Gillis, who accidentally pulled into his driveway.

During a news conference, Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy said Gillis was traveling with friends, going to another friend’s house nearby, and got lost. “While they were leaving the residence, once they determined that they were at the wrong house, the subject came out on his porch and fired two shots, one of which struck the vehicle Kaylin was in.”

Monahan was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. His lawyer, Kurt Mausert, told WAMC Northeast Public Radio that Monahan was afraid and said, “There were errors, there were misunderstandings that culminated in a tragedy. But the fact that we have a victim in a tragedy does not mean there’s a villain. Villain, to me, requires bad intent, and my client, I don’t believe — the facts will show — that he had bad intent.”

Murphy said he wasn’t aware of any interactions between the passengers and Monahan. “There was no threat from anyone in the vehicle. There was no reason for Monahan to feel threatened,”  

A fundraiser to help Kaylin’s father, Andrew Gillis, has been established.

3. In Gaston County, North Carolina, television stations WBTV and WSOC report that a basketball rolling down the street and into a man’s yard resulted in the shooting of a six-year-old girl and her parents.

Children were playing basketball when the ball rolled into the yard of Robert Louis Singletary, 24. When the family went to retrieve the ball, a neighbor told the Associated Press, “he [Singletary] went into his home and returned with a gun and started shooting.”

The father, William White, ran to aid his daughter, Kinsley, and was shot in the back and hospitalized with serious wounds. A bullet grazed the child’s left cheek. A bullet also grazed the girl’s mother, Ashley Hilderbrand, in the elbow. The girl and mother were both treated and released.

Singletary fled but turned himself in to Tampa, Florida police two days later. He faces four counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting severe injury, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon — another gun law broken.

There is a GoFundMe account to help pay for Kinsley’s therapy and to pay bills while William is out of work while healing from his wounds.

4. In Elgin, Texas, about 25 miles north of Austin, police say a 25-year-old man, Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., is in custody after shooting a high school cheerleader when she mistakenly tried to get into the wrong vehicle.

ABC News reports four cheerleaders with Woodlands Elite Cheer Co. had completed practice when they went to a carpool lot at an H-E-B supermarket. Heather Roth, one of the cheerleaders, said she got out of a friend’s car and opened the door to a car, thinking it was her own, but a man was sitting in the passenger seat.

She returned to her friend’s car, and the man approached the vehicle. Roth said she rolled down the window to apologize for the mistake when the man opened fire on them.

Bullets hit two of the young ladies. According to police, one was treated and released at the scene. The other, Payton Washington, was taken by medical helicopter to a hospital in critical condition. Woodlands Elite’s Facebook page confirms this information, but there is no update as of Monday, April 25. 

Rodriguez was arrested and charged with deadly conduct, a third-degree felony.

There is a link to a GoFundMe page to help Washington with her medical expenses: 

Media outlets are lumping these incidents together and reporting them as a gun issue. So, here are a couple more.

5. In St. Cloud, Minnesota, a sixteen-year-old intentionally ran over a 70-year-old man identified as Norbert John Olmscheid. KSTP-TV reported investigators determined that the man was walking on a walking path when the teen driving the vehicle hit him.

The sixteen-year-old ran from the scene, but police arrested him shortly afterward. He admitted to driving onto the walking path and intentionally hitting the man, who died later at the hospital.

The teen is in custody at a juvenile detention center on charges related to second-degree murder. His motive remains unknown.

Saner minds need to prevail, or does the country need to witness the downfall of a prominent leader or institution to set us on the right and good path?

6. A car was also a deadly weapon in Southern California. Austin Eis, 24, is accused of intentionally ramming his car into a group of high school students waiting at a bus stop outside Westlake High School. Wesley Welling, fifteen, of Thousand Oaks, was killed, and three others were injured. 

Two days earlier, Eis allegedly committed a series of crimes at a Simi Valley Walmart, including pepper spraying and stabbing one worker, physically assaulting a second employee, and lunging at two additional employees with a knife, according to a DA’s office statement published by the Associated Press.

Eis, a former Westlake High student, was arrested at the scene. A sheriff’s deputy said it wasn’t immediately clear whether he knew the victims or any motive for the attack.

There is a GoFundMe campaign with proceeds going to Wesley’s mother, Kelly Welling.

7. In Roselle, New Jersey, authorities suspect a domestic dispute led to a double ax murder. 

WABC-TV reporter Toni Yates spoke with Atasha Scott, whose sister-in-law, Keisha Morrison, and her nine-year-old daughter, Kelsey, were killed with an ax.

Scott says her brother Gary Morrison let his half-brother Everoy Morrison, who was down on his luck, live in his basement for two years.

However, the couple’s older daughters and Keisha expressed concern. “She said she wanted him out. He said he would leave before the end of the month,” Scott said. “But he didn’t.”

According to the family, the older sisters called their father, Gary Morrison, when they discovered blood on their little sister’s bedroom walls. He came home, and after a brief conversation with his brother Everoy, Gary went upstairs and found a bloody ax under a mattress and his wife and daughter dead and wrapped in sheets under a bed.

As police arrived, the family says the uncle fled and made it to Maryland, where police confirmed his arrest.

These incidents occurred from coast to coast. They stretch from about as far north to as far south and in the reddest and bluest states. The perpetrators are as young as sixteen and as old as 84. They are white, black, and Hispanic. They are all male. The victims are between six and 70, male and female. 

People across the ideological spectrum should agree that these incidents are tragic. My friend and I discussed how tragedies end.

Classical Greek literature and Shakespeare’s works typically end with the downfall or death of an ill-fated hero or heroine. They are usually a person of high status and power but also possess flaws, such as excessive pride leading to a fatal error in judgment. The punishment for their misdeeds is inevitable and a natural consequence of their actions. The restoration of order and justice only occurs once somebody falls.

While each side blames the other for the nation’s woes, neither side holds the moral high ground. Saner minds need to prevail, or does the country need to witness the downfall of a prominent leader or institution to set us on the right and good path?

Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at andy@andybloom.com or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.

2 thoughts on “Andy Bloom: American tragedies — how does this mess end?”

  1. “The world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.” My opinion is that the answer to the question is in great literature that is no longer taught, read or quoted.

  2. Seven (000,000,007) interactions out of literally hundreds of millions (100,000,000). Formerly the “news” was paid for by individual subscriptions, and now advertising pays for your eyeballs – and uses science to make it addictive, over simplified, and full of fear and despair. The opposite of faith, hope, and love.
    “What you focus on is what becomes powerful. (Be careful what you feed your brain.) The message is real and comes fortified with some serious science. It’s called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. The research around it has caught fire and the findings are powerful. The implications for all of us are profound. At the heart of the research is the finding that experience changes the brain. Just think about that for a minute: You have incredible capacity to change your brain through your experiences. Up until the last decade or so, it was thought that the brain stayed fairly much the same and wasn’t open to influence or change. We now know that just isn’t true.”

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