Not sure if the tragic story made it beyond Southern California, but a piece that’s gotten understandly heavy play this last couple days is the manhunt for the person wanted in the Sept. 24 murder of a 3-year-old girl. Authorities went wide and hard with their call for public assistance in his apprehension by stating that the suspect intentionally shot the child in the chest:

“Police believe that (Jonathan) Banks jumped out of a vehicle Sept. 24 and approached the young victim, Kaitlyn Avila; her father; and her 6-year-old sister as they were getting out of a car outside their Pinafore Street apartment building in Baldwin Village. The family had just returned from a Sunday afternoon outing to a fast-food restaurant.

Banks allegedly shot and wounded the father, a glass worker, wrongly believing that he was a member of a rival gang. Authorities said Banks then aimed at Kaitlyn and shot her once in the chest.

Authorities said this week that the gunman intended to shoot the child and did not, as originally believed, strike her inadvertently while firing several shots at her father.”

This has triggered obvious outrage throughout the area communities, some of which made its no-holds-barred way onto the group blog I write for by a fellow contributor named David Bullock who didn’t mince words in headlining his Blogging.la postWhat the fuck is wrong with you?”

“How the fuck could you walk up to a toddler, a cute little 3 year old and shoot them point blank? What kind of a sick, heartless piece of shit are you to do something like this? Do you think you’re tough, to kill a young child at close range? It’s bad enough when gang shooters accidentally take a life of an innocent bystander child, but walking up to them and shooting them point blank in the chest… FUCK YOU!”

Given the information provided by law enforcement, Bullock’s incredulous rage is certainly understandable. Hell, a large parts of me wants to share in that anger. But another part of me never fails to kick in and back away from the vehemence and instead engage what I consider a healthy skepticism — especially when it comes to police “version” of events.

That whole “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” thing seems an ever-increasingly unpopular stance to take in this day and age. In this 16X fast-forward world of ours we want our judgment as quickly as our drive-through burger combo. But to me it’s too easy a thing to convict a person in the media. It’s too simple to stare at the always unflattering mugshot being displayed in the newspaper or on the TV and say “Oh yeah, he did it.”

Well I’m one of those people that don’t do that. Yeah, one of them. Call me a conscientious objector. And I certainly don’t blank-check subscribe to what the police spin — especially when what they do is by design. Think about it… had police officials gone on camera with their cards close to their vests showing a photo of the suspect and the grieving father in the background and putting a standard reward on Banks’ head for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of…” do you think he would’ve been coughed up so quick? Doubt it. But factor in that he did the intolerable and unthinkable in killing a child with malice aforethought? Presto, the guy’s in jail. Mission accomplished.

But what I ask myself is “how do the police know that?” Eyewitness testimony? From who… the wounded father? The surviving 6-year-old sister? Bystanders? Given the short chaotic amount of time within which the crime took place how can anyone be certain this guy deliberately killed the little girl?

Certainly it may play out that he did indeed do exactly what witnesses and the cops have said he did, but I’ll suspend my irrational impulses and recognize it just may very well have been accidental. Not that I’m excusing him of any responsibility in the slightest, but there is a vast chasm between the degrees of murder and I would rather not accept so eagerly and one-sidedly that someone is so capable of such soullessness. Not that I’m naive as to believe there aren’t people capable of such evil, but until the facts come out in the trial that lead to Banks’ conviction on charges of first-degree murder, I’m going to refrain from validating it. And in the meantime I’m left yet again with a bad taste in my mouth — not just because once again a suspect has been prosecuted in the press, but also because the police felt they had to irresponsibly manipulate and oversell the crime. As if the death of Kaitlyn Avila isn’t horrific enough.