It’s hard to imagine how she found the courage.
But what the mother of 5-year-old Payton Benson said in the wake of her daughter’s death by a random bullet are words that should echo across Omaha.
If she could talk with those whose callous lawlessness claimed the life of her innocent child, Tabatha Manning said, she would tell them this:
“Put your guns down.”
No call for vengeance. No call for revenge. No call for retaliation. None of the irrational, illegal tactics of the gang-and-gun culture.
Put your guns down.
Gun violence and gang problems are not new to Omaha. City officials, community leaders and the Omaha Police Department have targeted this issue for years. Progress is being made.
Encouragingly, this latest tragedy is taking a different course. Witnesses are talking. Police are getting help.
Moral outrage, correctly harnessed, can help solve this difficult issue. Would-be shooters need to see neighborhoods bonded in anger about this violence; to know that people are unafraid to talk to the police. Neighbors need to know there is safety in taking a stand.
Payton Benson isn’t the only innocent victim. Since 2002, four other children — all 6 years old or younger — have been lost to random gunfire. That roll is heart-wrenching:
>> Alazia Alford, killed by gunfire aimed at a 19-year-old involved in a drug turf dispute. She was 6 years old.
>> Curtavius “C.J.” Boykins, killed by a shot to the chest during a gathering outside his family’s apartment. He was 2 years old.
>> LaSandra Coleman, killed by shots fired at the car in which she was riding. She was 5 years old.
>> DeAndre Robinson Jr., killed by a shot to the head when gunfire was directed at his parents’ house. He was just 4 months old.
What goes through the minds of those who killed these children? Or those who might resort to such mindless violence in the future?
Certainly not reason, respect, humanity or compassion.
For reason and respect, they should hear City Councilman Ben Gray, a relative of the latest victim and a longtime advocate against this senseless violence.
Gray said the family wasn’t interested in vengeance. “We don’t want it done in any way other than what is lawful and good,” he said.
For humanity and compassion, they need to hear Payton’s grieving mom.
“I ask our community to help me in forgiving the people who are responsible for this,” Tabatha Manning said. “We need some love, everyone. This needs to end for the safety of everyone.”
Strong words from a brave mother in terrible pain.
Put your guns down.