Is Oklahoma City pharmacist Jerome Ersland a murderer? A jury in that town thought so. Too bad there’s no jury to find Antwun Parker’s mom guilty of being an awful parent.
I’m sorry, but there’s just no other conclusion to reach. You may agree or disagree after you hear the details of the story.
It was May 19, 2009, when Ersland was working at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in Oklahoma City. A video surveillance camera showed two males wearing ski masks walk into the store brandishing guns and attempting to rob the joint.
Antwun Parker, 16 at the time, was one of the masked robbers. Oklahoma City police have identified the other as Jeventia Ingram, who was only 14 at the time.
Ersland, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and unfortunately for him a darned good shot, grabbed a handgun and fired, hitting Parker in the head. He fell to the floor as his crime partner fled the scene.
The video camera then showed Ersland walking to the rear of the pharmacy where he got a second handgun. He returned and fired five more shots into the prone Parker, who died from his wounds.
Oklahoma City prosecutors felt the five extra shots went well over the line that separates legitimate self-defense from murder, and a jury agreed. Still, Ersland has supporters who believe he’s a hero.
Cleta Jennings, Parker’s mother, isn’t among that number, but she has issues of her own. In what might be described as one of the most pathetic cases of denial ever to go on record, Jennings recently had this to say about her son, shown on video trying to rob a place of business at gunpoint:
“A coward is someone who will kill someone when they’re down. That’s not a hero. The real hero here is Antwun.”
With one ill-advised, thoughtless statement, Jennings has highlighted the intensity of what have been called America’s “culture wars.” There are indeed some places in the nation where a gun-toting, store-robbing hoodlum is indeed regarded as a hero.
The stop-snitching craze — brought to us courtesy of the gangsta rap subculture — is now so prevalent that police in some cities are hard-pressed to solve homicides. Remember the incident several years ago when rapper Busta Rhymes’ bodyguard was killed in broad daylight during a video shoot? Hundreds of witnesses, and none — including Rhymes — willing to talk to police.
So perhaps if someone has that worldview, Parker is a hero. And perhaps I should confirm at this point that Jennings is black and Ersland is white. I don’t know if Jennings or her son bought into the rap culture that makes criminals the heroes and law-abiding citizens the villains, but the mom should ponder this:
She might be correct that Parker was not a hardcore thug. He may have been, as his family claims, a basically good boy who loved basketball and then committed one bad, stupid act that ended tragically for him.
But he’s no hero, Ms. Jennings. Please return to reality.
Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to Sudan.