Could anti-government paranoia have contributed to the killing of a census worker

Given the climate of hostility and frustration right now in our country, where protesters gather at town hall meeting to shout down their local congressperson and join in at loud TEA parties carrying placards accusing the federal government and President Obama of all sorts of underhanded behavior, it is not surprising to me to learn of the apparent murder of Bill Sparkman earlier this month.

Sparkman was a part-time worker with the federal census bureau in a remote area of Kentucky who was found hanged from a tree on September 12. According to investigators the word ‘fed’ was written across his chest.

Although it’s unclear whether or not Sparkman’s capacity working for a federal agency as “intrusive” as the census bureau was a factor in his killing, it is a possibility that the hostility and animus many people have in our nation could have contributed to this man’s death.

After all, in recent months our commander-in-chief has has come under unfounded suspicion from a good many people in our country of pushing the nation towards the brink of totalitarianism and extreme socialism. A good many of people in our country still hold steadfast that President Obama is Muslim, despite the fact that he is a Protestant Christian. All types of wild rumors and innuendo are out on the Net and with the ranting and raving of people on all sides, commentators and talking heads spewing anger and venom, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone saw a harmless canvasser from the census bureau as an Gestapo-like intruder.

There are plenty of ignorant hillbillies out there that if I were heading from house to house asking questions on behalf of the federal government, I’d be a bit scared myself. Unfortunately, legitimate questions about federal spending and health care proposals have taken a backseat to paranoid ramblings and unsubstantiated rumors.

Sparkman’s job, according to an Associated Press article published this morning, involved door-to-door interviews in Clay County. The substitute teacher had been working for six years with the bureau.

So far authorities are treating Sparkman’s hanging as a homicide. They aren’t saying whether it appears to have been politically motivated and aside from the word scrawled across his chest, I suppose there would be no reason to necessarily believe that. Perhaps the perpetrator or perpetrators had other motivations. What makes me suspect that it could be motivated by someone inflamed against the government is that Sparkman’s laptop computer was left in his truck and not stolen. Robbery does not appear to be a motivation in his killing.

There could be other reasons, I suppose, but given the climate right now, I think it’s reasonable to wonder if he were executed due to someone’s anti-government paranoia.

Albany murder suspects rapped about the thug life

“Got these bitches sucking on me ’til their motherfucking jaws sore.”

And so goes one of the more forceful lyrics in a four-minute rap track recorded by King James Modest and Ricardo Caldwell 17 and 18 respectively and both under arrest for the murder of Richard Bailey, a 20-year-old senior at the University at Albany last October.

Aspiring rappers, Modest and Caldwell are now in the confines of the Albany County Correctional Facility. The alleged triggerman, De Von Callicutt was received at the Coxsackie state prison facility in March on an unrelated charge.

Albany is not a particularly violent city, nor does it have the reputation for crime the way that other Upstate cities such as Buffalo and Rochester have. Still, a three-week period here included several murders – all involving guns –¬† an accidental shooting death and a random non-lethal attack on a bicyclist during broad daylight. Most of these incidents have occurred in the rougher sections of Albany, though Bailey’s murder took place in the heart of a neighborhood inhabited by college students.

Nearly a year since the night the Long Island native was shot in the head while returning from watching Monday Night Football at a friend’s apartment, many people in the city wondered if there would be any breaks in the crime.

My inclination was that someone would get arrested for doing something stupid. Looking for a deal, he or she may offer up information about the individuals involved in Bailey’s killing. That’s normally how these things happen, I think. So far, the police aren’t saying too much about how they got the three suspects, except that before he was sent to prison Callicutt had revealed his role in the shooting, ostensibly to someone who said something to the cops.

I suppose that it’s rough to say that any one person is destined for a life of crime, but listening to the lyrics in Modest and Caldwell’s low-quality recording, “Uptowns Bubblegum”, it’s clear that these two at least emulated the gangsta culture that has landed and many young men, and perhaps themselves if they are convicted, in prison.

Certainly, they’ll have an opportunity to argue their innocence and if they choose a jury or bench trial. It’s unlikely that Uptowns Bubblegum will make it into any trial, but it seems relevant in this respect: whether they are guilty or innocent Modest and Caldwell have a pretty dim view on the world around them; one the requires the use of force and violence to achieve riches and notoriety. It’s a huge part of the hip-hop culture, packaged and sold to disaffected young men in broken down cities throughout our country.

Out in the world right now, there are probably a half-million young men who want to be rappers, who have recorded their own demos or made cheap slide show youtube videos. Many of their songs are peppered with references to shooting snitches, driving fast cars, wearing expensive threads and sexual exploits with women. The life of a thug is a thing to be admired and exalted. With it, the idea of extinguishing someone’s life over some material item or amount of cash is par for the course. Many rap song attest to this. It really is very sad.

If the Albany police got these three guys I sure as hell hope they’re the right ones. Nobody wants to think of the wrong people getting in trouble while a killer or killers go free. I guess it will be interesting to see how this whole affair plays out. If Modest, who once impressed Albany mayoral candidate Corey Ellis as a kid escaping the troubled streets of Arbor Hill, is convicted for his alleged role, it will be decades before he steps out of custody – at least 25 years. The world will have changed a lot by then. I wonder if he and Caldwell, who comes from nearby Schenectady, will ever look back on the track they recorded and see it for what reasonable folks see it for, which is poor attempt distinguish themselves the easy way.

Murder where I jog past

On Sunday I drove home a teammate from a softball game.¬† Across the spot where I let her out we noticed Albany Police had cordoned off an apartment on Western Avenue. I haven’t seen it much in life, but I know when you see the yellow tape, it’s usually a crime scene. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that someone could have been killed there. Sure enough, my teammate told me there was a killing there. Henry C. Ferrell, a 32-year-old single father living at 158 Western Avenue, was shot after some sort of early morning argument on Sunday. So far his family is unsure of why he may have been killed.

I guess that makes about 4 homicides in Albany so far this year. The only other one that I can remember was one that occurred not far from the Ferrell killing  on West Street.

I don’t think of Albany as a particularly murderous place, but looking back over the past year, and remembering the shooting of 10-year-old Kathina Thomas last year in the West Hill neighborhood, not far from where I live.

Thomas’ death, which came at the hands of a teenager who was firing at some rivals on the street with a “community gun”, was absolutely awful. Still, this is not a particularly murderous city. Earlier this year however, a gun was found in the basement of my apartment, so I suppose you never know where something that could occur or who is involved with us things.

I jog past the site where Farrell was killed at least four times a week, although mostly during daylight. On the other hand, I’ve walked around at late night near a spot on Lake Street where an unsuspecting University at Albany student was popped last year for no apparent reason. His killers have not been identified yet and so far it seems pretty random.

I don’t normally live in fear, but I suppose even in safer neighborhoods people can be killed. My own brother was held up at gunpoint in March in his neighborhood in the West Roxbury section of Boston, known for being pretty safe. I guess you can never account for other folks unfortunately.