Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saving the Next Brisenia Flores

Posted By on Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Brisenia Flores
  • Brisenia Flores
In what kind of world is a 9-year-old girl shot intentionally, in cold blood, at close range? And what are we going to do about it?

According to national consensus, that kind of world starts in the mind of a unfathomable madman and ends at a Safeway in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8, 2011. And there is little we can do about it.

Can the same be said about the world that crashed around another Arizona 9-year-old, Brisenia Flores? She and her father Raul were gunned down in their home in Arivaca, Ariz., in 2009, at the direction of Shawna Forde, a woman who moved to the border to lead "ops" as a so-called "Minuteman" (both are her words).

Little Brisenia had been sleeping on the couch with her puppy when a knock came at the door. Three people impersonating law enforcement demanded entry. When the door was opened, the intruders dropped their ruse, found a gun in the house, and started shooting.

Brisenia pleaded for her life. The little girl who loved Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast was shot in the head — twice.

On Monday, a jury convicted Shawna Forde of the murder of Brisenia Flores and her father. The two other alleged intruders will stand trial later this year.

A colleague of mine, a fellow native Nashvillian, asked me a poignant question about the crime.

Were the Flores' deaths a result of insanity, or was this a lynching?

Hearing that question, I couldn't help but anticipate two possible involuntary and automatic responses in the South: (1) an automatic "no" (this is not that); and (2) such a question is not to be raised in polite company.

But a 9-year-old Arizona girl — Hispanic, and a U.S. citizen — is dead. "Minuteman" is how the convicted murderer primarily identified herself. We are having a national conversation about immigration enforcement. How can the Flores murders not be part of that conversation?

Lest we think this is a question best left to Arizona, the Tennessean reminded us this week of a Nashville family who suffered a home invasion that started with a similar knock on the door — by someone impersonating law enforcement — and ended with the stabbing of the homeowner Maria Gurrola and the abduction of her infant son, Yahir Anthony Carrillo. In 2005, Daniel Schertz of Tennessee pleaded guilty to selling pipe bombs to "take care of" Hispanic immigrants. Last August, Nashville police charged Demontrae Mooreland with targeting Hispanics in a string of six alleged robberies.

Nashville leaders who aren't already aligned with Hispanic or immigrant organizations are typically slow to speak out out against the dehumanization of immigrants of all nationalities, and against the frequently scapegoated Hispanic community. Occasionally, there are exceptions, like former Gov. Phil Bredesen and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, who have both sounded the alarm that things can get out of hand, and even Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, who once lamented the anti-immigrant tone on talk radio, when he told the Scene in 2006, "There is an element of people out there that scares me to death."

When there is an uptick in Hispanic DUIs, Hispanic organizations put out anti-DUI awareness campaigns. Now that we have violence claiming the lives of innocents under the guise of immigration enforcement, will those who advocate immigration enforcement in Tennessee put out an anti-violence campaign to circulate among their organizations? They don't have to say they're fighting against "lynching." No matter what we call it, everyone can agree that it's important to defend the little girls.

To borrow a Southern phrase, the daughter we save may be our own.

John Lamb is the editor of

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