Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adult-Sized Monsters

We all have things that terrify us. The things that as children manifested themselves as monsters under our bed or bogeymen in our closet turn out to be things we never really outgrew. They simply manifest themselves in different forms now.

Yesterday I received a text message from Rob, which I presume he sent from his office in Cheyenne, Wyoming, informing me that there had been a shooting at the Federal building in Las Vegas, Nevada. By day's end the authorities had released the name of the shooter and of one of the two Federal law enforcement officers he had shot. Apparently Johnny Lee Wicks was upset over the dismissal of his pro se lawsuit against the Social Security Administration, which he sued claiming that he had been the victim of racial discrimination. His benefits apparently were reduced when he relocated from California to Nevada. A Federal judge threw out his case - according to the MSNBC.COM site - on September 9, 2009.

There is little evidence now - and there will be none - that any of the men or women of the United States Marshals Service who are assigned to the Federal building in Las Vegas, Nevada (where among their duties they are charged with the responsibility of protecting Federal judges) or the Court Security Officers with whom the USMS contracts to provide certain ancillary duties at the Federal building had any involvement in the disposition of Mr. Wicks' lawsuit. That mattered not to Mr. Wicks, who attired in black from head to toe, removed a shotgun from under his jacket yesterday morning around 8:00 a.m. and opened fire. Struck in the chest was Stanley W. Cooper, 65, who had retired after 26 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and worked as a courthouse security officer since 1994. He died instantly. Mr. Wicks also shot and injured a Deputy United States Marshal, whose identity had not been released by the USMS in any of the news reports I read yesterday. Mr. Wicks was subsequently shot and killed by law enforcement.

The USMS is this country's oldest Federal law enforcement agency. Its roots are more than two centuries old. During the course of its life, members of the USMS have been killed and injured in the line of duty. It is an ever-present risk of the job - although it is a risk that at the very least the family members of the men and women who earn their living doing that job never put out of mind completely. Those who do the job every day are heroes - an appellation they need not give their lives to earn.

We all have things that terrify us, just as we did when we were children. On a good day, our little monsters stay hidden in our closet or buried 'neath our bed with the dust bunnies. But on a truly bad day, they are front and center for all the world to see. Yesterday was one of those days. I hope that I do not see such a day again any time soon.

And I wish that Stanley Cooper's family had not had to see such a day yesterday.


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