On the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 26, something shattered the window at the Curry County Democratic Central Committee office.
Was it a bullet?
Was the act of vandalism politically motivated?
It depends on who you ask.
The police have determined it wasn’t a bullet.
Members of the Democratic committee are convinced it was, and that the act was motivated by politics.
Additionally, several committee members have called or emailed the Pilot to express their disappointment that the resulting story was not published on the front page.
The story – “Police investigate vandalized building” (Pilot, Sept. 29) – was on Page 6A.
“If it had been the Republican office or the Pilot office, it would have been front page news!” said one upset committee member.
The decision where to place the story was based on two things:
1. At the time, the police said it was not a bullet and they did not think it was politically motivated;
2. Bob Horel, a spokesman for the committee, did not indicate to the Pilot reporter that he or any members thought the act was politically motivated.
At the time, it seem to us a clear case of vandalism, and stories about vandalism usually don’t make the front page, if they make the paper at all.
To write a story that assumed it was a bullet and that it was politically motivated would have been poor journalism – not to mention sensationalistic.
Flash forward to this week:
After corresponding with several committee members and the police, more information has come to light.
On Thursday, Brookings Police Lt. Donny Dotson said he and investigating Officer Travis Wright have determined the object that shattered the window was not a bullet. They have not found a bullet nor did they find any bullet holes in nearby walls.
Also, there were at least two other Brookings businesses – a restaurant and a laundromat – that had windows broken that night: Not by bullets.
Committee members remain unconvinced, and are doing their own research to support their case. On Thursday, committee member Tomas Bozack, who went to the office the night the window was shattered, sent an email that argues that the hole in the window and resulting damage is consistent with that of a bullet. He provided documented accounts of studies on high-speed projectiles (bullets) vs. a rock or hammer on glass similar to that in the office windows. He also provided a link to a YouTube video demonstrating a bullet shattering a window.
Bozack writes in his email that “It may have not been a bullet, but all of the evidence points to one. Any other explanation seems unlikely.”
Bullet or no, Bozack and other committee members remain convinced the act of vandalism was political.
They have good reason to believe that. Ever since they have opened the doors of their headquarters to the public, they have received occasional visits from individuals who harassed members for their political beliefs.
“One man came in hear and yelled in our face, calling us baby killers,” said committee member Silvia Brooks-Bank.
Bozack said such encounters come with the territory. “When we had an information booth set up at the county fair, people would say disparaging remarks,” he said.
If anything, Bozack said, the act of vandalism to the office is a teachable moment.
“This is a good community and we shouldn’t let an act by 1/10th of 1/100th of our community give us the wrong impression of who we are,” he said.
He’s absolutely right.
I hope that members of the Democratic committee can get past this ugly incident and get on with their mission of promoting political public discourse.
But such discourse is impossible if people are yelling at one another, or throwing rocks or shooting bullets through windows.
This community is better than that.
This country is better than that.