Few recent crime stories have been as compelling or infuriating as the early Tuesday morning burglary/homicide at the Culver’s restaurant off the Beltline, an eatery that thousands of Madisonians frequent, including this bloggeur.
That, alone, brings it home to much of Madison. This one is different, perhaps because most crimes are committed in an instant, involve acquaintances or family members, and are committed in a private or at a little known place — not a heavily trafficked Culver’s. (A well run business that does not deserve the notoriety. In a way, a victim itself.)
This one is different because the victims were innocent strangers in the wrong place at the wrong time — rather than a domestic dispute, a long-running feud over some imagined slight, or a drug deal gone bad.
Police Chief Mike Koval (is he the most quoted man in Madison?) perfectly captured the zeitgeist as he always does:
“There was a certain vileness, a certain despicability about the whole thing because … you had an instance where the victim was scared to the point of death.”
And forbidden medical attention. The crime dragged out over a torturous hour. Four hard-working family men, a close-knit team, are surprised while on a construction job in the darkness of night. Held at gunpoint. Their work crew leader is forced to use the tools of his trade to break open the safe. The man’s heart gives out after the ordeal. The heartless criminals refuse the co-workers’ pleas for medical attention, including that of the stricken man’s stepson.
The four hostages are well known, accomplished, and respected — particularly their leader.
We’ve seen this tense scenario play out on the screen: a gun aimed at the honest tradesman ordered to bust open the safe. The bad guy yells Faster! Faster! The screaming drill is pressed harder; metal shavings are flying, the bit is overheating. The gun barrel presses against his head for emphasis. Except on the screen, the good guys get their justice and some flash-bang vengeance before the final credits. Real life is more tragic.
The crime at our local Culver’s is all the more tragic for the unspoken but unmistakable race factor. Will this black-on-white crime stoke the latent racism that progressives from Barack Obama to the average Madison alder swear lurks deep within every white psyche? Or will the reaction to this crime — the likely calls for more policing and less fettered — inflame the race baiters ready to pounce on any micro-agression?
This story has what we journalists would call “legs.” It will reverberate. Madison, we need to talk.
A new Support our Police petition is up.
A quick shout-out to my former Capital Times colleague; back then, he was a sports writer specializing in golf coverage. Good job WI State Journal reporter Rob Schultz for a well sourced and humanizing account of Mr. Chris E. Kneubuehl — the circumstances of his victimization and the triumphs of a life well lived.