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Text insults, petty pride leave a good woman dead

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on July 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
July 27, 2010 5:37 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

What’s so shocking about Lisa Marie Melancon’s killing last Thursday was the pettiness of the dispute compared with the enormity of the crime.

It all began with an exchange of angry text messages she’d had no part in. Text messages.

While shocking, the Tacoma shooting wasn’t particularly surprising. Trivial insults and even inadvertent slights make some hotheads explode as if someone were holding a knife to their mother’s throat.

Last January, a 2-year-old girl was shot after her father and another driver reportedly wound up dueling with their cars and “exchanging gestures” on Tacoma’s East Side. Whatever driving and fingers were involved hardly warranted capital punishment. Fortunately, the girl was not killed

Another road rage incident in February, also on the East Side, claimed the life of 20-year-old Camille Love while she was on a ride with her 19-year-old brother. Someone took offense at something ­and shot repeatedly at their car. Murder, for who knows what perceived offense.

A Madigan neurosurgeon – yes, a neurosurgeon – went berserk in March 2009 after a driver cut him off on state Route 16 in Tacoma. Dr. Dennis Geyer lit out after the offender, dragged the 61-year-old man from the car, and left him with a broken nose and two black eyes. For cutting him off.

Maybe the most incomprehensible thing about Melancon’s death is that she had nothing to do with the fatal quarrel. According to police, a woman traded nasty messages with a couple who lived next to Melancon on South Bell Street. The woman’s boyfriend and two buddies showed up for a fistfight,

Melancon heard the commotion and stepped out to her porch – and got shot in the head, apparently at random, as the three men drove off, one of them firing wildly from the car.

If the investigators are right, text messages, hair-trigger tempers and an illegal gun cost the life of a 40-year-old woman who – as a Tacoma code-enforcement officer and community activist – had played a big role in the revival of distressed neighborhoods. An everyday hero.

Melancon’s death has triggered a public outpouring of grief. Her survivors described her as “a great mom and a great wife,” and “gregarious, outgoing.” “She was there for the homeless, the hapless, the strapped,” said her father.

What a loss. What a ridiculous reason. What a senseless shooting.

We can outlaw fistfights, angry driving, shooting, the possession of guns by criminals. Unfortunately, there’s no outlawing the kind of pride that won’t tolerate the smallest of insults.

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