The worst mass shooting you never heard about (this year, anyway)

In the early hours of the morning yesterday, there was a massive party taking place on the 3300 block of Dubois Place in Southeast Washington, D.C. The good times came screeching to a halt when sustained gunfire broke out. When the smoke cleared, one 17-year-old male was dead and another twenty people had been shot. Among them was an off-duty police officer who had responded to the violence and was left “fighting for her life.” No suspects have been identified.

Here’s the curious part about this horrible tale. Unless you happened to live in the District and were watching the local news, you probably didn’t hear about it. If we all put our heads together, we might be able to figure out why. (WJLA News, ABC7, Washington)

A teenage father is dead and 20 people were shot including an off-duty D.C. police officer early Sunday morning at a block party in Southeast Washington.

The victim has been identified as 17-year-old Christopher Brown.

“I really don’t understand how my child’s life is gone. 17, my oldest, I have five boys. Just an innocent king’s life is taken for whatever the reason,” the teen’s mother said Sunday.

His mother says Brown’s family isn’t handling the news of his passing well and the teen’s aunt told reporters that he has a 1-year-old son and another child on the way.

Multiple people were hospitalized, but none were listed as having life-threatening injuries aside from the off-duty police officer. Perhaps it’s a minor blessing that only one person was killed, but this was still a serious bloodbath. I’ve been searching the 2020 news archives this morning and as near as I can tell this is the worst mass shooting of the year. (Well… so far, anyway. Fingers crossed.)

One might imagine that this would be big news. I’m old enough to remember when our major cable news outlets and newspapers were fixated on mass shootings. Or at least the ones that fit the matching narratives of “too many guns in America” and “dangerous white men at war with non-Asian minorities.” This was particularly true in 2015 and 2016 in the runup to the last presidential election. But perhaps the media circus has packed up its tent and moved on.

Because of the nature of my job, I tend to have CNN on in my home office (with the sound muted) most of the day so I can keep an eye on the chyron. I suppose it’s possible that I missed it but I haven’t seen one segment covering this event yet. They do have one article up on their website with a few paragraphs worth of details, so if you knew enough details to search for it you could find something there. Not so at MSNBC. No videos of coverage of the story were found and searches of the victim’s name or even the phrase “mass shooting” returned no results. The same goes for the main NBC News website.

To their credit, ABC News has a duplicate of the article published by their local affiliate ABC7 News on their website, but no additional coverage or commentary. I was doing a radio hit this morning on WTIC in Connecticut and I brought this story up. The host, who covers news such as this for a living, hadn’t even heard about it. There’s pretty much a media blackout of this story going on.

This is reminiscent of another, similar event that I was beating the drum about back in December of 2017. Mass shootings were all over the news that year, with the two biggest being the San Bernardino massacre and the Waco, Texas biker gang shootout. But the third-largest took place in Bunny Friend Park in New Orleans. Seventeen people were shot at the live filming of a music video, including a ten-year-old boy who was projected to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life after taking a round in the spine. And unless you were a subscriber to the Times-Picayune newspaper or watched the local news stations, you probably never heard about it.

Why? Because Black people shooting other Black people in outbreaks of gang violence remains strictly “local news.” It’s not of interest to the national media because it doesn’t fit the narratives mentioned above. Nearly all gang shootings are done with illegal, unregistered handguns, so it doesn’t work for the gun control angle. And if it’s not a White person shooting people it doesn’t work for the rest of the current messaging plan. So down the memory hole it goes. Please send your prayers to the family of 17-year-old Christopher Brown who already had one child with another on the way. Somebody should at least remember his name.