The kid's name was Michael Brown, and he lived in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
He and a buddy were walking home a few days ago when a police officer shot and killed him.
That's really all we know for sure. Well, we also know that Brown didn't have a gun and the police officer, obviously, had one.
After that, we're dealing mostly with speculation. Eyewitnesses claim Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot. But then, the eyewitnesses may be biased. The police officer hasn't been heard from, but the story is that Brown tried to pull him from his car, and he shot in self-defense.
St. Louis County police have also released a videotape of someone who might be Brown robbing a convenience store of a $49 box of Swisher Sweets cigars.
And, of course, there are all the demonstrations and the photos of police riding around in armored personnel carriers topped by what appear to be machine guns. These are the kinds of photos we are accustomed to seeing from war zones, not American cities.
There are some questions that really need to be answered, the main one being: Why did the police officer shoot Brown six times?
Because he allegedly stole a box of Swisher Sweets?
Is this the modern-day equivalent of the “banality of evil?” When Hannah Arendt coined the phrase, she was talking about Nazi Germany. Does it now apply to a suburban St. Louis convenience store?
It doesn't make much difference to the realities of this case, but I have yet to see a report suggesting Brown had a box of Swisher Sweets in his possession when he was shot. Maybe it will come out later, but that doesn't justify a death sentence.
Or did Brown die because he refused a police officer's legitimate order? That idea is really going through social media these days -- that if Brown had just obeyed the cop's order, none of this would have happened.
That discounts the eyewitness accounts that claim Brown did, in fact, obey the order. But even if he didn't, is disobeying a police officer's order a capital crime in Ferguson?
You know, we do have capital crimes in this country. When a person is convicted of a brutal murder, for example, that person can be sentenced to death. It usually takes years, even decades, to carry out the sentence, and the appeals process normally goes all the way to the Supreme Court.
That's what happens if we follow the law. Conversely, we can just let a lawman shoot the disobedient culprit and get it all over with.
So on the one hand, we have a baby murderer receiving full appeal rights, and on the other we have an alleged cigar thief being executed on the spot. And I keep hearing people wondering why black people seem so angry.
Really? We still wonder about that?