When Denver Lost Its Mind Over Youth Crime – The New Republic

The next days front-page photo of a skinny first-grader on life support, his swollen head obscured in a nest of bandages, became the iconic image for the Summer of Violence, the only Black victim among the high-profile crimes to come. The press chronicled every moment of Brodericks recovery, something Phason remembers even today with gratitude.

Denvers top officials flocked to the mothers side in a show of political unity. Looking uncharacteristically rattled, Mayor Webb held an emotional press conference in front of Phasons home. He declared a war on gangs, asking Black and Latino neighborhood residents to suspend their normal distrust of aggressive policing to end the senselessness. The editor of The Denver Post, the late Gil Spencer, was moved to write a personal column linking the torment hed suffered from almost losing his own eight-year-old child to an illness to that of Brodericks mother. It would make some kind of sense to force-march these gang creatures into the hospital room, Spencer wrote, with his head still bloody, his body a forest of tubes.

A week after the shooting, the governor, the mayor, the police chief, and district attorney linked arms with Phason for a well-publicized Juneteenth march titled Save Our Children and organized by the Black community. More than 1,000 supporters dressed in purple to signify the blending of the red and blue gang colors and marched to Five Points, Denvers historic Harlem of the West. Phason remembered the ugly racist taunts hurled from bystanders along the way: Kill each other, n-----s! I had never seen anything like it in all my life. At one point, a young Crip approached her with an apology and a bouquet. I was trembling, about to cry. I thought there could be a gun up in there, she remembered. It was only flowers.

Like Ignacio in the zoo shooting, Broderick recovered, though he is still slightly impaired on his left side. Again, no arrests were made. Law enforcements failure compounded public anxiety, given the intensity of the media attention. By summers end, Broderick Bells name had appeared in 96 Denver newspaper stories, three times on the front page. By the end of 2009, Brodericks story was mentioned 182 times and featured in eight more front-page stories. Nationally, his case was highlighted by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in an August 1993 op-ed about the Summer of Violence titled KILLING JUST FOR WHATEVER. Denver also made CBS News list of the nine most violent cities in its 1995 documentary In the Killing Fields of America, produced by Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, and Ed Bradley.

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When Denver Lost Its Mind Over Youth Crime - The New Republic

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