Chicago’s Leadership and Media Need to Take a New Road to Make a Difference

April 23, 2024

Chicago's navigation system is faulty

Robert Frost's 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken” depicts a narrator walking through the woods and coming to the inevitable fork. He has a decision to make. After careful contemplation, the narrator chooses the path appearing less worn, hoping to return to take the other on another day. He knows deep in his heart, however, that the chances of ever returning to this same spot are slim to none. If only taking the road not taken was the way Chicago media worked, but, alas, they take the same road repeatedly.

Two tragic stories recently emerged in Chicago. The first occurred on March 21 when Dexter Reed also decided to take a road taken all too often and shot a Chicago police officer. Reed’s action resulted in Newton’s Third Law of Motion — an equal and opposite reaction — by three other police officers responding to the scene, all of whom returned fire, thus ending Reed’s life. As if on cue, local and national media outlets pounced on the police officers’ use of “excessive force.” CNN described the scene as “mayhem in a residential neighborhood,” as if this happened to Opie Taylor in Mayberry.

Although it was Reed’s choice to shoot first, the perpertrator's family has hired an attorney from Action Injury Law Group, who is not releasing recent photos of 26-year-old Dexter. Instead, the law group preferred to release endearing photos of Reed at a high school dance and his high school graduation. Yet, another road taken often. Moreover, “journalists” at CNN are not digging deeper because the same narrative is used regardless of which felon dies at the hands of police officers. The same story is regurgitated; network news outlets just change the names. However, CNN is not alone.

To divert attention from Reed’s actions, local media have submerged Reed’s decision to open fire on an officer under a tide of misleading headlines. Reporting on the incident, NBC5 wrote: “Questions over Dexter Reed traffic stop, CPD use-of-force remain after bodycam video released.” The Sun-Times did little better with “In case of Dexter Reed, killed by cops in traffic stop, court filings, family detail struggle with mental illness.”

National media, too, joined in the gang tackle of police with the Washington Post declaring: “Police fire 96 shots in41 seconds, killing Black man during traffic stop.” Finally, ABC7 ran this: “Protestors take fury at Dexter Reed shooting to Chicago police board hearing."

Though Reed’s family will certainly feel his loss, Reed was facing felony gun charges but had been on release pending trial since last July. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, in 2021, Dexter threatened to kill his uncle while holding a knife, but his uncle shot Dexter nearly killing him. However, the Reeds’ attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, does not want this nugget in focus because it is a “family matter.” In other words, do not focus on the fact that Reed had problems with the law prior to March 21 or that he had mental health issues and should not have had a gun at all during his altercation with police in March. Police officers are the bad guys even when they themselves are shot.

The one glaring difference between this and other narratives is that cries of racism cannot be used for protests, as bodycam footage shows black, brown, and white officers responding to the traffic stop. Sexism cannot be used either because the main officer’s bodycam footage came from a female officer. Protests, however, will come anyway because officers are supposed to allow themselves to be shot, should be trained to not return fire excessively, and, as stated by protester Michael Boyd, “He could have been apprehended, but instead tactical units fired 96 shots.”

If politics plays a role in this incident, expect a thorough review from the Chicago Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and five police officers to be out of a job. Chicago cannot have riots and protests during the Democratic National Convention.

In case anyone is wondering, the police officer shot by Reed was wounded in the hand and is alive and recovering.

Mayor Brandon Johnson had words of condolences for all involved upon the release of the bodycam footage. His statement included the following:

“I know this footage is extremely painful and traumatic for many of our city’s residents. It will be especially difficult for those of us living in communities where the events depicted occur all too often. As mayor, and as a father raising a family– including two Black boys on the West Side – I am personally devastated to see yet another young Black man lose his life during an interaction with the police.   
My heart breaks for the family of Dexter Reed. They are grieving the loss of a son, a brother and a nephew.  I spoke to Dexter’s family this weekend and offered them my deepest condolences. I know there is also a community of friends, teammates, coaches, and neighbors who are mourning his loss as well.     
I have also been praying for the full recovery of the officer who was shot during this interaction, and who I visited in the hospital the day of the incident. Thankfully, he is recovering, but if that bullet had hit him a few inches in a different direction, I would be here today talking about the loss of another young Black man.   
It weighs heavily on me that this event took place just blocks from my own community. And it is not lost on me that both Dexter Reed and this officer could have been my students."

If the officer injured by Reed had been white, Johnson’s statement would have been far different. But attempting to sound Obama-esque, Mayor Johnson sees his black former students in the faces of Dexter and the police officer. The fact that Mayor Johnson is more worried about the police officer’s color rather than his near-death experience speaks volumes.

A second incident occurred in Chicago during last weekend’s bloodbath. A weekend that saw a total of 43 shot and seven dead, the most heinous incident was a mass shooting that killed a nine-year-old and injured 10 others. The youngest injured was a one-year-old. As the story unfolded, conflicting news reports emerged. Some news outlets said this was a family gathering to celebrate a confirmation. Other reports claimed it was a birthday party. Initial reports claimed that the young victim was seven-years old, but as more information leaked out, she became an eight-year-old fatality. Now, the victim is reported to have been nine-years-old. It is hard to get the facts straight when victims are not casualties of police brutality.

But let us not quibble over insignificant details. Don Jerome, Chicago’s Wentworth Area Deputy Chief of Police, stated that the violence was due to gang activity, quickly followed by an audible “of course” and cursory rolling of the eyes by most Chicagoans. However, the Molina family said they had lived in the area for 30 years, had no affiliation with gangs, and bristled against the allegation. This caused Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling to make a statement that the investigation will continue, and that “this wasn’t someone shooting at these people because they were gang members — so let’s make that clear…Until we get all of the facts, we don’t need to say anything about the motive right now.”

Where are the protests for the Molina family? Where are the daily headlines about the kind of street thugs who routinely shoot at anyone, let alone children at a family party? Where are people reflecting on the innocence of children killed and traumatized because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Nowhere. Quite obviously, the lives of Chicago’s children are not as important as the life of a felon who died as a result of his choice to open fire a police officer.

Once again, it is not merely the media that set aside this tragedy. Mayor Johnson issued another statement. Compare and contrast the statement made about Reed and the statement released about the Molina family:

"Today, we mourn the loss of an 8-year-old girl whose life was tragically taken from her by gang violence. This heinous and cowardly act of wanton violence that leaves our city mourning children is beyond reprehensible and has no place in our communities.
Weare all allowed to be outraged today – a warm, spring day that I am sure this child would have been enjoying with family. I am praying for her loved ones and her community as they experience the unimaginable pain of losing a child. 
I am also praying for the recovery of the three children and seven adults who were injured in this horrific shooting.
Our Mayors Office of Community Safety has been in contact with the Chicago Police Department, which is committed to identifying and apprehending the individuals responsible.”


Short and sweet. No mention of race or color. No insertion of his own personal connection as a parent or teacher. Johnson’s wording is completely different discussing what the community must be feeling rather than himself. On top of that, Johnson bought into the initial statement that this mass shooting was a result of gang violence. There are no reports that Mayor Johnson met with the Molina family to boot.

The politicization of violence on the streets of our major cities must end. The tragic loss of life affects the families’ lives of both the victims and perpetrators. Unless the media and officials focus on each life as being precious and not just a statistic, things will never change. Sadly, in a country where Bill Maher feels comfortable enough to state that abortion is murder but is okay with that because there are seven billion people in the world, one does not see the sanctity of life perspective happening anytime soon.

"One shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and society

Needs to take a new road, perhaps less traveled by

To make all the difference."

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