Big funeral in Madison today. Police are planning on 1000, maybe 1500 people coming to the Dakota Prairie Playhouse (ugh, there's an awkward name for a funeral site) to pay their respects to Deputy Chad Mechels.
That my wife wants to be a pastor defies and shames my understanding. Tomorrow a pastor has to find the right words for a grieving wife and two bewildered children... and do it in front of a big audience. Not a job I could do...
...and not a job I'll pretend to do. If you're looking for such words here, read no further.
Deputy Mechels was killed Sunday in the line of duty. He was responding to a call about a young man who was threatening to kill himself after a fight with his girlfriend. That young man, 19-year-old Ethan Johns, apparently shot Deputy Mechels. At least that's what Johns appears to have told a 911 dispatcher immediately after the shooting.
Investigators and the court have no pleasant task ahead sorting out what happened. I can find no good side to it. A senseless death. A widow, two kids with no dad. One young man (the classic profile: never saw it coming... wouldn't hurt anyone... good, dependable friend...), one weekend gone bad, now going to prison, forever.
The story will evolve, but for now, let's take it as we have it: a 19-year-old, emotionally upset, has easy access to a gun. He kills a trained, experienced policeman... over what? a fight with his girlfriend? anger at a cop coming to his door?
I'm not going to make excuses: if Johns did what he said he did, he's guilty, and deserves the full punishment of the law. But I am going to state a biological/psychological fact, based on my experience as a teacher and as a one-time teenager: even good kids do stupid things. Even at 19, their brains haven't matured. They'll take some perceived slight or momentary setback and turn it into a personal catastrophe, a desperate cosmic battle of good and evil, cause for some grand melodramatic gesture.
Or they just won't think. They fail to think past the moment, past themselves. Consequences don't register in their hormone-addled, still-forming brains. They just act. And if the wrong thing is close at hand—a razor blade, a gas pedal, a gun—someone ends up dead.
I'm not going for a big gun control argument here. There is no gun law I'd support that would have stopped what happened Sunday.
But the next time a legislator makes the argument that we ought to give emotional, impulsive 19-year-olds even easier access to firearms in public places, expect me to mention Ethan Johns and Deputy Chad Mechels.
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