“He could’ve been my son.”
That’s what President Obama said about Trayvon Martin in 2012. And it was true. He could’ve passed for the president’s son. No doubt Trayvon’s parents miss him every day.
The president also expressed outrage about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this summer.
And rightly so, no parents should have to bury their sons. It is tragic.
When I look at this picture of Brendan Tevlin, I think, he could have been my son. A 19-year-old, suburban boy. Strawberry blond, athletic, bright and smiley.
On June 25, he texted his Mom, Allison, that he was on his way home from a friend’s house. But he never made it there.
Minutes later, Ali Muhammad Brown walked up to Brendan’s family car, which was stopped at a red light, fired ten rounds into the car and killed him.
Brown then allegedly drove the car, with Brendan still in it, to a parking lot and left him there.
We live not far from the Tevlins in New Jersey, and word of the tragedy spread quickly. Carjacking? Robbery? What could have happened?
Then at a press conference, the police said the killing was “targeted.” That was a loaded word.
Everyone, including me, thought this: Oh, I see. Brendan was the one picked that night to go buy the pot from some guy in a parking lot and something went very wrong.
It was logical, maybe, to think that way, but completely off base. There were no drugs. Just a boy targeted by a killer, who was bent on jihad.
The killer, according to the court documents, says that Tevlin’s death was "a just kill.” An act of vengeance and retaliation for U.S military action in the Middle East. “All these lives are taken every single day by America, by this government. So a life for a life” said the devout Muslim.
So that’s what the police meant when they said he was “targeted.” It would have been helpful if they’d clarified that a bit. Instead of adding insult to the profound injury already inflicted on Brendan’s family and friends.
The use of the word “targeted” led me, and others, to conclude that in some way Brendan had put himself in danger and that although his death was tragic, it couldn’t happen to my child (or your child) if they didn’t do the same thing.
But that odd comfort and conclusion were sadly mistaken.
Brendan could be my son, or yours. His only crime? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, targeted by a person terrorizing a community and exacting revenge.
Brendan’s killing belongs in the category of the Fort Hood shootings by Maj. Nidal Hassan or the drive by shooting of a storefront military recruiter in Little Rock in 2009. These were both random acts of terrorism, on our soil.
But that’s not what Brendan’s family wants you to know. They want you to remember their son. The handsome, young man who played the bag pipes and loved music. The talented student and gregarious guy, who won over friends and professors in his first year at the University of Richmond. The Seton Hall Prep graduate and lacrosse player who went on to play on his club college team.
All the promise that was cut short. He had his whole life ahead of him until this low-life murderer decided to rob him and his family of all that.
I’m sorry if I sound too angry or impartial. But every time I look at this young man, I think, he could have been my son. My heart breaks for his mom and dad and his sister and brothers.
The country stopped this summer as we watched the hurt and anger in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s body lay on the ground for hours after he was shot and killed by law enforcement. The pundits and preachers flocked to Ferguson, outraged at what the police had done. Protestors filled the streets and riots broke out. It was a terrible story.
So where is our collective outrage and remembrance of Brendan Tevlin? His story has been lost in a sorry media double standard.