There's a 1992 film called "To Grandmother's House We Go," starring the Olsen Twins. It's a comedy, though; the jokes were far too few. A Thanksgiving song, "Over The River And Through The Wood," features the line, "To Grandmother's House We Go." That song was festive, whereas this tale is not. Going to my grandmother's was always associated with fun. It's where we held Christmas dinner and ended up after Halloween (my grandparents lived two blocks away). There were always freshly baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies in a large jar shaped like Mother Hubbard's shoe. Because they were two blocks away, my brothers and I often dropped by unannounced, but the cookies were always there.
The current story is set in Largo, FL, on Christmas Eve. Abrielle Baldwin planned to leave her six-year-old son and eleven-month-old baby boy with their grandmother while she went to work on Christmas Eve. Before going to work, Abrielle took her younger brothers Christmas shopping. Damarcus Coley, 14, got upset that his brother, Darcus Coley, 15, was getting more gifts than him. I can picture my brothers and I arguing over a perceived discrepancy in gifts received. What happened next is beyond my comprehension.
When they all got home from shopping, the argument continued. Damarcus then retrieved a semiautomatic handgun and pointed it at his brother, threatening to shoot him in the head, according to witnesses. The older Darcus said he didn't want to fight and told his brother to go outside. An uncle separated the pair, and Damarcus went outside where his 23-year-old sister already was, holding her baby in a carrier. Abrielle told Damarcus: “You all need to leave that stuff alone. Why are you trying to start it? It’s Christmas.”
Damarcus called Abrielle several names and threatened to shoot her and the baby. Damarcus then fatally shot his sister, causing the carrier with her baby inside to drop to the ground, though he was otherwise unharmed. Darcus then came out of the house with his own gun and shot his brother in the stomach. Darcus threw his gun into a neighbor's yard and ran away, later captured at a relative's home. Damarcus is expected to fully recover and face charges for the first-degree murder of his sister. Darcus has been arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder.
During their lifetime, I've visited my maternal grandparents' home more than two hundred times, never once seeing a gun lying around, let alone two. It confuses me that these two kids had access to two guns and that one of them thought a weapon was the mechanism to resolve a dispute about Christmas gifts.
The Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, had this to say: “This proliferation of guns on the streets and guns in this area and guns in the hands of these kids is the worst I’ve ever seen it. I don’t think we’ve ever seen it this bad.”
This is to be expected in a state where guns are readily available with no permits or training required. I'm reminded of the 1957 film "Bridge on the River Kwai," where the British doctor in a Japanese-run prison camp says, "Madness, Madness" after witnessing a series of events revolving around the destruction of a bridge.
Madness is the best I've got to explain the actions of this family, including the adults who didn't keep guns out of reach and the state that advocates the proliferation of firearms. I feel for the two children now growing up without a mother and am finding no comfort that they may have a grandmother willing to take them in.