It could have happened to you

Written by: Richard M. Thompson

Imagine you are walking home from the local convenience store, talking on the phone to your significant other after purchasing a bag of potato chips and some soda for the pizza party at a friend’s house later in the day. Imagine this friend’s home is in Bay Village or Stow or Hudson or Shaker Heights. It begins to rain, so you pull the hood of your sweatshirt over your head to stay dry.

Now imagine you are about three minutes from your friend’s home, and you see a man you have never seen before walking toward you at a rapid pace. Then imagine that you feel threatened by this man and begin to run, still on the phone with your significant other. You run because you fear for your life.

The stranger catches up with and asks you questions about why you are in this neighborhood and who you are going to see, to which you respond it is none of his business.

The man then pushes you; you drop your phone. A scuffle ensues, and during that scuffle you scream as loudly as you can for help. No one comes to your aid.

The strange man then pulls out a gun and shoots you once in the chest and you are dead. You are dead just because you were walking to a friend’s home from the store. You are dead because some stranger decided you looked suspicious because of what you were wearing and how you looked.

You are 17 years old.

Your body is taken to the morgue, where it sits for three days and you are tagged a “John Doe,” even though there is cell phone in your possession. The police could have called the last number in your phone logs to identify you. But they don’t.

The man who killed you, the man who followed you just because of how you looked, and the man you don’t even know tells the police at the scene of your murder that you attacked him and he killed you in self-defense because he feared that you would kill him.

This man is taken to the police station in handcuffs, is questioned by the police, who believe his story, and is then released without being charged with any crime, taking the weapon that killed you home with him, as well as the clothes he wore during the shooting to be either washed or discarded or burned.

Your body lies in the morgue.

Your parents call the very same police department that placed your body in the morgue, alerting them that you are missing, that they have not seen you since you left your friend’s house to go to the store hours ago. The police tell your parents that they can file a missing person’s report, which they do, and if they find you, they will contact your parents.

It is not until three days after you are dead that your body is identified by your parents in the morgue after the police put two and two together and connect you with the missing child report. Your killer still is walking free.

They have a funeral for you. Your body is six feet underground in a box. All of your dreams, all of your wishes, all of your hopes have been destroyed by a stranger you had never met until that fateful night.

You are 17 years old. You are Trayvon Martin.