Our view: Another call to action on domestic violence

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What played out on 21st Street Monday was scarily reminiscent of the tragedy that unfolded in Kirkersville just a few months prior.

Another domestic violence situation played out in public. Another felon with a gun he shouldn’t have owned. Another man trying to kill the woman he said he loved because she dared report his abuse to police.

Let’s be blunt: it was only dumb luck that Phillip Lee Parker II didn’t kill ex-girlfriend Sarah Bennett, or hurt or kill one of the hundreds of people just going about their day on Newark’s busiest strip. There were two cars driving in reverse at high speeds on 21st Street approaching lunch time followed by at least three gunshots being fired.

Some say it was karma that Parker shot himself and then died from that wound after he was able to get three rounds off – one of which hit Bennett but did not kill her.

 But we cannot rely on karmic retribution as our public safety policy. This case in particular shows how difficult it can be to stay safe against someone determined to cause harm.

Unlike Kirkersville, much of the legal system worked as it should in this case. Parker served years in prison for previous crimes. The police responded to the June call for domestic violence and arrested him. The law director determined a disorderly conduct charge fit the facts – a tough choice but he has to prosecute what he thinks he can convict.

The judge then issued a $5,000 bond, which may seem low but is reasonable for a fourth-degree misdemeanor. In the hearing Judge Michael Higgins said he required a bond because of Parker’s violent past.

Police were actively searching for Parker with the intention to charge him with kidnapping, a first-degree felony, after a call from Bennett on Sunday.

Unfortunately, less than 20 hours after that police call, Parker found Bennett and Monday’s chaos ensued.

That’s not to say everything worked perfectly. Parker, a registered sex offender, was apparently living in Newark but had never updated his address from Marion. Would increased supervision have helped prevent this?

Parker and Thomas Hartless, the Kirkersville gunman, both had firearms despite not being allowed to own them. Yes the easy answer is that criminals won’t follow laws about guns, but shouldn’t we be making it more difficult for them to access these weapons?

We should also be vigilant in our personal lives against domestic violence. This could mean talking to a friend who may be being abused. It means teaching our children to respect others. It means holding those in power accountable when they don’t properly keep us safe from those looking to abuse.

It also means supporting organizations, such as the Center for New Beginnings, in Newark that provide resources for people facing domestic violence. Other worthwhile efforts include Mental Health America’s “Girls in Progress,” RSVP’s reproductive choice education, Woodland’s “Expect Respect,” and Pathways Center for Prevention Services.

We can make progress against domestic violence in Newark, but it will take all of us to do so.

Found in The Newark Advocate on July 28, 2017

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