A memorial to Christopher Lane is shown along the road where he was shot and killed in Duncan, Okla. Lane, an Australian who was on a baseball scholarship at East Central University in Ada, Okla., was in Duncan visiting his girlfriend, when he was shot and killed Friday, Aug. 16. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 5:27 PM
Daily reports of bad news from around the world can make us insensitive to the suffering of others. However, we occasionally have a bad news story grab our attention, and it won’t let go. One of those stories was especially troubling this week.
A headline said it all. “Teens charged after allegedly killing Australian student in Oklahoma for the ‘fun of it’.”
Unless they have been through a similar experience, most parents can’t comprehend what it must be like for someone in another country to hear their son or daughter has been killed in the United States for no logical reason. However, that is exactly what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lane, whose son Christopher was the shooting victim.
The crime was reported by many news outlets, but the following details come from stories done by The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and Fox News.
“The fact that something that shouldn’t have happened has happened — it’s the fact that somebody we all love so much is not going to come home,” Peter Lane said. “There’s not going to be any good coming out of this because it was so senseless. It happened, it’s wrong and we’re just trying to deal with it the best we can.”
Christopher Lane, 22, of Melbourne was jogging along a road in Duncan, Okla., after visiting his girlfriend, Sarah Harper, last Friday. He was shot in the back with a .22-caliber revolver. He was in this country on a baseball scholarship at East Central University in Ada, which is 85 miles east of Duncan.
Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, of Duncan have been charged with first-degree murder. Under Oklahoma law, they will be tried as adults. If convicted, both face a possible sentence of life in prison without parole. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said they cannot receive the death penalty because they were under 18 at the time of the crime. Both are being held without bond.
Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, also of Duncan, was allegedly driving the vehicle carrying the other suspects. He is accused of using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory to first-degree murder after the fact. His bond was set at $1 million.
Prosecutor Jason Hicks said Luna was sitting in the rear seat of the car when he pulled the trigger and shot Lane. Hicks said Jones was driving and Edwards was in the passenger seat. He didn’t agree with bond for Jones.
“I believe this man is a threat to the community and should not be let out,” Hicks said. “He thinks it’s all a joke.”
Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford said, “They saw Christopher go by, and one of them said: ‘There’s our target.’ The boy who has talked to us said, ‘We were bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody’.”
A witness called 911 when she saw Lane stagger across the road and fall, the police said. Another woman tried CPR and paramedics also arrived on the scene, but Lane was pronounced dead an hour later.
Police used surveillance video from area businesses to identify the vehicle, which was found later at a church parking lot with the three suspects inside. A caller had reported there were three youths with guns who were threatening to kill someone.
Chief Ford said, “I think they were on a killing spree. We would have had more bodies that night if we didn’t get them.”
Comments from parents of two of the youngsters were puzzling. Jennifer Luna identified herself as the mother of Chancey Luna, the alleged shooter. She said her son should be punished if he was involved. She said the three boys were part of a “wannabe gang,” but insisted her son isn’t a killer. Then, during a tearful interview with reporters, she addressed Lane’s parents.
“I wouldn’t want to be in that position that they’re in right now,” she said. “I’m always on my kids. I always tell them: If I lost y’all, I wouldn’t be able to live.”
The father of Edwards, the 15-year-old, denied his son played a part in Lane’s death, but did say he had had run-ins with the law before.
Parker, Lane’s girlfriend, said, “I don’t really care what happens to them. I feel like if they don’t get what they deserve now and in the present, they will eternally. They’re just evil people.”
Sheriff Wayne McKinney of Stephens County, Okla., said there had been an escalation in major crimes committed by people under 18 in recent years in the county, which is a rural ranching and farming community about an hour and a half outside Oklahoma City.
Young people are killing and being killed in major cities every day across this country, and there doesn’t seem to be any universal solution to the carnage. And that is why Americans tend to become insensitive to those that make newspaper headlines and stories on the evening news.
The killing of Christopher Lane is different because it is such a senseless act that touches two continents. And that reflects badly on all of us who live on this one where the dastardly deed took place.
A message left Monday at home plate where Lane played baseball in Australia asks a question we should all try to answer and do our best to keep it from happening again. It said, “A wonderful young man taken too soon. Why?”
• • •Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or firstname.lastname@example.org