Casualty #4: Sarah Butler, RIP

About two years ago, I mentioned in a post here that a student of mine, Tyeshia Obie, had been found murdered–the third murder across the duration of my (then) twenty-year career in higher education.

Though she was an acquaintance rather than a student, I’m now sadly obliged to add a fourth victim to that list, Sarah Butler, the lifeguard at the YMCA pool where I swim laps. I didn’t know her, but will find her absence from the pool jarring. She was found dead a few days ago at Eagle Rock Reservation, a popular park in a nearby town.

If I add one person taken hostage at gunpoint but not killed (the unnamed bank teller in this story, who was another acquaintance of mine), but subtract friends from Palestine (who are routinely shot by the Israel Defense Forces and border police), that brings the toll of victims up to five–all by coincidence young women in their 20s. Yes, the crime rate has been down lately,* but that doesn’t make the death toll or incidence of victimization any less sickening.

Whatever criticisms we have to make of law enforcement–and I have more than my share–the fact remains that law enforcement is the only barrier between us and victimization. Abolitionist fantasies can’t eliminate that fact. Reform is our only hope, and enough work to last a lifetime.


*Meaning, as a long-term trend. As it happens, violent crime was up in 2015. And no sooner do I blog the subject, but nearby events oblige me.

December 7, 2016: I made my first visit to the YMCA pool tonight since Sarah Butler’s death–jarring to the say the very least, and a subdued, somber air in and around the pool itself. Apparently, a suspect has just been arrested in connection with the case. A vigil was held for Butler on Monday.

I wish I had words for it all, but I don’t.

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