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Gary Younge
Shots in the Dark

Brandon Martell Moore left the world in a shower of bullets followed by deafening silence. Brandon, 16, was looking at video games at National Wholesale Liquidators on 8 Mile Road in Detroit the Sunday after Thanksgiving when an off-duty cop moonlighting as a security guard kicked him and his friends out of the store, claiming they were not accompanied by an adult. The altercation that followed did not involve Brandon but ended in his death.

It was the middle of the afternoon in plain daylight; Brandon was unarmed; he was shot in the back.

The way Brandon’s brother, who was there at the time, describes it, the guard was ruthless in his execution. “He put one arm on top of the other arm and started aiming at us,” says John Henry Moore Jr. “He was shooting to kill. It looked like he wanted to kill all of us. Brandon wasn’t even involved in anything. He was the last one to take off running, I guess.”

Brandon was a quiet boy. According to his sister Ebony, the only time he made any noise was when “he was seeing a girl or making jokes.” He and his younger brother were such devotees of

that his mother had to hide the video so they wouldn’t keep playing it.

“At the funeral lots of girls I didn’t even know came up to me crying and said, ‘I was his girlfriend,'” says his mother, Susie Burks, laughing. “There was a whole row of them there.”

He had never been in trouble with the law before. But the man who killed him had. In 1971 Eugene Williams was involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident while under the influence of alcohol. In 1979 Williams shot a 31-year-old man dead during a neighborhood fracas. Five years later he shot his wife in the side during a domestic dispute, but she lived. Williams is also a Detroit cop. His badge number is 4174. At the time of writing he was still on the force. By any standard, you would think this would have been a scandal. But apparently not in Detroit. It took the city’s two main newspapers less than 200 words to finish with the story in which they failed even to mention Brandon’s name.

“We’re deemed not reportable,” says Clementina Chery, who runs the Boston-based Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, which assists families of victims as well as perpetrators in the immediate aftermath of shootings and works in schools to educate people about gun violence. “Black children are dispensable. Violence is expected to happen in these communities.”

The Detroit police refuse to talk about it. The office of the mayor–the “hip-hop” mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, who struts around with “mayor” embroidered on his French cuffs–has not uttered a word and won’t return calls. When Brandon’s father, John Henry Moore Sr., asked for the police report, the officer told him, “I’m not fucking giving it to you.”

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