(Eds. Note: Micah Tennant, 10, died from his injuries Wednesday. This commentary has been updated to reflect that fact.)
Like many children throughout the country, a 10 year old boy and 15 year old boy went to a high school football game last Friday night. But on this particular evening, these innocent children were caught in the crossfire of senseless gun violence which arose out of a dispute that did not involve them. The 10-year-old died as a result of a gunshot wound. The 15-year-old was only slightly grazed by a ricochet, reminding us that life, just like football, is sometimes a game of inches.
Consider that children, families, fans all started out the evening showing support as a community for their school and student athletes only to be interrupted by gunfire. The events that unfolded will have a significant impact on the thousands of people who were in attendance at the football game at Pleasantville High School on Friday, Nov. 15.
Since that night, there have been at least two other mass shooting incidents in the United States, where four people at a football watch party were murdered in Fresno, Calif., and three people were killed outside of a Walmart in Duncan, Okla. At these times, many people become outraged. They want more gun control legislation. They talk about the lack of gun violence in other countries, as compared to the United States. As the county prosecutor, there are incidents like these that truly leave me without words sometimes. I experience a combination of outrage, disbelief and sadness for the victims, their families and our society, when another piece of innocence is taken from us.
In matters like those that occurred in Pleasantville, there is no amount of legislation that could have prevented this tragedy from occurring. Unfortunately, there is no preventative mechanism for neither stupidity, nor a callous disregard for human life. No matter how hard our legislators may try, they cannot pass a law against being stupid and irresponsible.
Rather than focus on those who endangered so many lives that evening, I would like to bring attention and give thanks to the many law enforcement officers, security officers, emergency medical personnel, volunteers and even off-duty and retired emergency personnel, who ran towards the gunfire in an effort to save lives. Too many times, citizens take for granted that when we hear gunfire or see smoke, our first reaction is to run towards safety. However, all of the aforementioned people are trained to run towards danger, and on this evening, they did not shirk their responsibility. Their quick response, to aid the injured, saved lives, prevented further injuries, and assisted in apprehending suspects. Our community owes every one of them a great debt of gratitude.
In addition to those heroes, there were fans attending the game that assisted law enforcement with apprehending the suspects. Without their assistance, the swift identification and capture of those suspected of causing this tragedy would not have been possible. Additionally, the effective collaboration of all local and federal law enforcement demonstrated the requisite unity that is necessary to keep the peace in our community.
The Pleasantville Police Department, Pleasantville Fire Department, Absecon Police Department, Egg Harbor Township Police Department, Atlantic City Police Department, the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Agency, FBI, and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office all worked and are continuing to work in an efficient manner to prosecute this case. We stand together in an effort to make our community safer. Unfortunately, it takes an incident like this to truly appreciate those who put their lives on the line every day for the safety of this community.
Lastly, let us not forget the most vulnerable victims in this incident, including but not limited to the child victims that suffered bodily injury, the students in attendance, and the student athletes. I am optimistic that the school districts and the health-care professionals will deliver the services necessary to treat their trauma and that one day this incident will be an afterthought in their adult lives.
Damon G. Tyner is Atlantic County prosecutor.