Getting away with murder

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By Don McHoull

A year ago today, Jerry Bugwei-Twum was alive and in the prime of his life.

Today he lies in an unmarked grave, his life cut short by a burst of gunfire.

The graveyard is one of the saddest places I have ever seen. It’s vast and empty, and strangely solemn despite the constant drone of highway traffic.

Because the graves in Jerry’s section lie so close to the access road, there are no tombstones. Instead the dead are marked by small stone tablets that lie flat on the ground.

When snow falls, these grave markers are hidden from view. But if you know where to look, you can brush the snow off the grave of Kevin Davis.

Kevin was only 20 when he was shot to death. Jerry was 23. Now they lie almost side-by-side, six feet under the frozen ground.

It is impossible to imagine the amount of the sadness that has been poured out into this one small patch of earth. Yet Jerry and Kevin are only two young men who have met with a similarly tragic fate over the last few years. More join them every week.

Jerry was one of 31 men to die by gunfire last year in Toronto. We could have told story of any of these men, but we chose Jerry because he was killed on our campus.

In the end, where Jerry died is meaningless. But his story is important.

In many ways Jerry’s story is typical of the 30 other victims. He was a young, black man gunned down for no good reason.

Typically, a murder victim makes news for less than a week. But as our writer Robyn Doolittle reports on page 10, the story doesn’t end when the news cameras turn away.

The pain of Jerry’s loss affects each member of his family differently. His father can’t sleep. One of his brothers drinks to dull the nightmares.

Their hurt is compounded by knowing that Jerry’s killer still roams free. Sadly this is all too common. Less than a third of gun slayings were solved last year.

Jerry’s death in a textbook case of why these killings are so hard to solve. Police could recover little evidence from the crime scene. They questioned a man who might be a suspect, and though they believe he lied to them, they can’t force him to talk. Most importantly, they have been stymied by witnesses who they believe aren’t giving them the real story.

As gun violence has become shockingly common this year, politicians call for solutions. Jerry’s story shows that those solutions won’t be easy to find.

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