Every time I hear of another death in the Black community due to the glut of guns in neighborhoods it brings back an awful memory of an experience during my college days. I know firsthand the terrible consequences of our nation’s failure to address the proliferation of handguns. While the gun lobby and their cowardly and PAC funded apologists on Capitol Hill protect profits, innocent blood streams down the streets of many of our communities. The innocent blood of victims of gun violence like Glenn Harrod, a college classmate and friend.
November 25, 1980 started out like any night during my college days at Morgan State University in Baltimore as I hung out with my fraternity brother Ron in his apartment. As the evening wore on we decided to grab a bite to eat at a nearby McDonald’s where another fraternity brother, Garrett, was the manager. Hoping he would ‘hook us up’ (hey, it was college and even at 1980 prices free is always better than paying), we decided to give him a call to let him know we were on our way. No sooner than I said, “Hey,” after the call connected, there was bedlam in the background on the other end. “I’ve been shot!” Those were the only words I heard as I dropped the phone and screamed at Ron, who saw the fear in my face, and told him that we had to quickly get up to McDonald’s. We rushed out of his apartment, paying no mind to whether we cut off lights or locked the door, jumped in his car and sped up to the restaurant, only minutes away.
As we approached McDonald’s my heart sunk as we arrived at the same time as police patrol cars screeching into the parking lot and a Baltimore city police helicopter hovering overhead with its search light bathing the neighborhood in white light. It was like a scene that was so familiar on the city inspired cable television dramas, “The Wire” or “Homicide.” Tragically, this scene was real and personal. As we jumped out of the car we were told by police to remain back; a command we did not follow as we raced up to the large glass window at the front of the restaurant. We could see people hovering over someone; it wasn’t our fraternity brother but one of our college classmates, Glenn Harrod. I knew from the frantic scene that his life was slipping away. I looked at Ron and we were both distraught. My first reaction was to cry as I tried to remember to pray, but even prayer seemed hopeless given the chaotic scene around us.
As the area turned into a crime scene and police and paramedics tried valiantly to save Glenn’s life we departed the restaurant and made our way to my apartment in West Baltimore. Garrett was my roommate and I wanted to be there when he got home; figuring he would need support. As Ron dropped me off, it was the first time in my life that I was truly afraid and felt powerless. It would be the wee hours of the morning when Garrett would return home. I was half asleep when I heard my room door open and saw him standing in the doorway. Looking dazed and overwhelmed, he simply said, “Glenn’s dead” and made his way down to his room. The next morning I would learn that the gunman had fired twice at Garrett and missed, and coldly shot Glenn in the chest after he had turned over $300 to the thugs as they demanded, and as they were exiting the restaurant. We would later learn that his shooter was involved in two other murders within a week of Glenn’s slaying and he admitted to have drunk vodka and taken 10 valium pills before committing the McDonald’s robbery.
To this day I can see Glenn – smiling and cheerful. His death and the senseless violence that caused it has been a constant thorn in my memory. Thirty-two years later and the images from that night remain as fresh in my mind as if it happened last week. As is my recollection of walking down the aisle at the funeral home and gazing upon Glenn’s lifeless body, both Garrett and myself in tears, and wondering how we could let such a good young brother fall victim to such a cowardly act. Yes, a coward shot Glenn but a gun killed him.
If it had been a gun-less coward, there stood a good chance Glenn would be alive today and fulfilling his dream to be a music teacher. Tragically, that was not the case. In Baltimore, a city that has become Baltimorgue, and communities across our country large and small, we have allowed the Second Amendment to become a right to slaughter. We have allowed innocent young people like Glenn Harrod to become target practice as self-righteous politicians feign concern over constitutional “rights” while lining their pockets with political contributions from a lobby that trades in death and human misery. There is no doubt we would see a different take on the Second Amendment by the gun lobby if the Black community subscribed to the Constitution’s right of the people to form “a well regulated Militia.” For now, the bodies keep piling up and the body bags keep filling up.
Glenn should be with us today. He was a great kid who was working his way through college. There are so many stories of the innocent slaughtered; including little children whose lives have been snuffed out by gun violence. No matter the body count, all we get from political leadership is a shrug. It is beyond shameful. It is evil.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.