A shooting earlier this week in my neighborhood shows that terrible things happen, even in great places.
I'm a longtime resident of Madison's Williamson-Marquette neighborhood, recently named one of ten great neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association and, as fellow Madland blogger Alan Talaga put it, "Madison's favorite gentrified neighborhood that doesn't want to acknowledge that it is gentrified."
But whether you think my neighborhood is gentrified or not, it is not immune to violence and tragedy. Our first home was on the 1300 block of East Wilson Street, which some neighbors call the "massage ghetto" because of the number of massage therapists occupying the small houses once built for railroad workers. Sadly, that very block was the site of Madison's first homicide of 2014 earlier this week.
On Monday, Bonnell Hanger, 39, approached his brother, Fredrica Hanger, 33, and allegedly shot him outside his Wilson Street residence. The victim had recently been released from a nine-year prison sentence.
Bonnell Hanger had a history of domestic violence, and was arrested on a tentative charge of being a felon in possession of a gun.
Longtime East Wilson Street resident Stephanie Rearick, who owns Mother Fool's Coffeehouse on Willy Street, lives next door to the residence where the murder took place.
Rearick says she did not witness any of the events firsthand, but had the impression that the suspect waited for police and cooperated. Her description along with press reports indicate that the block was shut down much of Monday night while police sorted out the shooting.
"I was worried about whether the [suspect's and victim's] family was being treated with enough kindness and compassion," says Rearick. "There was panic among neighbors, fear about how they [police] would react, and fear about if other family members came home they would be harassed."
"The neighborhood has been traumatized by police shootings," Rearick told me, referring to the community response to an incident on Nov. 9, 2012, when Officer Stephen Heimsness fatally shot Paul Heenan, who was unarmed and intoxicated, on South Baldwin Street, just three blocks from the site of the recent shooting. "I have big concern in the wake of the Paulie Heenan shooting with the police dealing with the victim and victim's family in a compassionate way," Rearick notes.
As for the shooting itself, the block and neighborhood feel safe, says Rearick. "We're concerned about the family and how life happens for them."
Rearick says she wishes our criminal justice system could better address situations like the one in the Hanger family: "It's another example of a good person with problems with impulse control and violence, not having what he needs to get past it."
Rearick also says the shooting calls attention to the prevalence of guns in our society, and she's frustrated by the limits of the public debate. "People will say background checks wouldn't have helped here," she says. "That's why we should be talking about more control than background checks. The symptoms of a massive social tragedy are coming closer these days."