Between The Lines

The Moral of a Life of Crime and Drug Addiction: Devin Morris Killed After Pulling A Gun

Read the comments under any news article and the responses to the events of the day are emotional, moral, and ideologically motivated.

Some dispute the facts, a few contribute details not previously reported. The vast majority, though, draw meaning from what they just saw. They criticize logical failures of the parties involved, lay blame, and issue passionate declarations about justice — or injustice.

The comments about the recent police shooting of a suspected car thief who pulled a gun on officers are overwhelmingly supportive. Albuquerque saw record murders last year, homelessness has taken over the city, and crime has come to the doorsteps of so many people that there is little sympathy for the perpetrators involved.

Which is as it should be. But to say that is a far cry from wishing death on people, even criminals.

A resident recently criticized The Conservative New Mexican for making the observation about the consequences of obesity, writing, “You give conservatives a bad name.”

The CDC has clearly stated the disproportionate risk of COVID death for obese Americans. 

“Obesity is a common, serious, and costly chronic disease. Having obesity puts people at risk for many other serious chronic diseases and increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19″ — CDC

That is not to declare that obese Americans “deserve” to die from COVID any more than speeders “deserve” to die if they lose control of their vehicles and crash. The “is” does not automatically assume an “ought.”

But implicit in any such observation is a moral judgment. A healthy lifestyle mitigates all-cause fatalities, not just for COVID, but such an observation cannot be made without people reading in an implied accusation against the poor lifestyle choices that contributed to the increased risk of fatality.

One can point the finger at the CDC and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, accusing them of having blood on their hands for failing to issue health warnings about the consequences of a lack of exercise, a poor diet, and Vitamin D deficiency that no doubt increased the fatality rate of COVID. 

But the government’s failure to provide useful information that saves American lives does not excuse the individual of his or her own personal responsibility. And that is the part people find most offensive. 

There is a difference between telling the facts of an event, as KOB4 and The Albuquerque Journal attempt to do, and drawing meaning from those facts, as The Conservative New Mexican attempts to do.

When it came to Devin Morris, the 31-year-old shot by police, local media shared the facts of the incident and a background on his past criminal activity. The Conservative New Mexican made a moral observation of those facts: “for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” — which, for the record, is significantly less offensive than some of the other comments made in response to the shooting.

Comments under the video of Devin Morris’ shooting

Morris had a long criminal history in New Mexico (and Colorado). The day he was shot by police, news reports said he had stolen a truck, fled police, driven the wrong way down a street, pulled a gun, and was shot as he ran, armed, toward a bystander. 

According to the Journal, two years before the shooting Morris was charged with criminal trespassing after being found with “several tourniquets and hypodermic needles” and admitting he was addicted to heroin.

The majority of comments on the video of his shooting express appreciation to the police for making the streets safer with their actions.

Some comments fell on the other side of the spectrum, claiming “He was defenseless,” “a man that would give his all to help a complete stranger,” and alleging he was an ethnic minority “murdered” by White cops.

Video clearly showed him in possession of a firearm (not exactly defenseless), police helicopter footage showed him driving, then fleeing, a stolen vehicle (he was as willing to help a complete stranger as he was to steal from him), and as a passably White man shot by at least one Hispanic officer, the race card will likely not play.

Screenshot of APD lapel video

Nonetheless, what is notable is the lack of personal responsibility in the race-baiting “cop killer” conspiracy theorists who project morality onto a man whose actions have been well documented in the news and in the courts — and never for his positive, selfless, or moral contributions to society.

Still, Morris did not deserve to die. 

To a limited extent, his addiction to heroin explains, though does not excuse, his criminal behavior. But his refusal to seek treatment (also documented in the Journal article) is a personal choice, just as stealing a vehicle or pulling a gun during an attempted arrest are personal choices. And personal choices have consequences.

To claim that Morris was shot because of his ethnicity is akin to blaming COVID for being fat-phobic. The “is” does not correlate to an “ought.” 

In the book of Matthew, Jesus said, “For all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

The same can be said of the spoon and the needle. Pointing out that fact is not a moral judgment. It is a warning that ought to serve as a lesson to others about the consequences of personal choices.

3 replies »

  1. I saw the comments in rebuttal of your precious observation. Morris was a tragic case that need not have ended as it did. The photo shows he was armed, good man or not, and was stopped because he was in a stolen vehicle. It might not have happened had the legal system actually caused him to reassess his lifestyle choices. Many good people are caught in the addiction trap, a lucky few can get out if stopped early. He was not and his loved ones suffer from his loss and his choices.

    • It is tragic, and there are many points of failure that can be blamed, from schools to the justice system to parents and friends who could have done more. The part that is always surprising is how families will embrace a fantastic story of their loved one’s greatness rather than use the truth as a lesson for younger generations. They did it with George Floyd, literally putting a crown on his head in a mural. Murder victims in Albuquerque venerated their sons despite the lifestyle choices that unnecessarily put them in harm’s way–being unemployed, driving drunk in the middle of the night, hanging in dangerous crowds. Making bad choices in life does not justify a death sentences, but what is learned from the false veneration of flawed men?

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