A vicious attack too close to home – The Denver Post


A 16-year-old boy is dead, killed in a vicious attack.

Khant Naing was allegedly pistol-whipped by an assailant a few years older than him who, along with a teenage accomplice, briefly got away into the early hours of the morning. Two suspects are in custody awaiting charges.

Denver police won’t reveal a motive in the case, so as you can imagine, rumors abound, including that the life of the high school junior was snuffed out in a dispute over a pair of $400 sneakers.

How I wish the above was the description of a plot on CSI or Law and Order. But it’s not.

The killing took place a week ago in the neighborhood around The University of Denver, where the rowdiest it used to get was when students celebrated the Pioneers’ winning national hockey championships.

Not anymore.

A reported shooting in a bar near campus on University Avenue over the summer led concerned neighbors to wonder on social media if that incident and last week’s murder were connected.

One thing is for sure, Denver has a growing problem with gun violence. The police department tweeted out six shootings that included two fatalities within 48 hours after Naing’s murder.

DPD’s Twitter account frequently posts information about shootings from all over the city.

A shocking video on a sunny day in September appears to show young people engaging in a shootout on a residential street … in broad daylight.

This kind of real-life drama is being played as more people are of the mindset that pulling a trigger is the best way to settle differences.

How did we get this way? Common sense would tell you that there’s more than one answer.

Yet conservative politicians in the upcoming election are exploiting the grief and anguish Coloradans feel with the message that liberals are too soft on crime.

And liberal politicians tout continuing down the slippery slope of more gun control laws and claim conservatives don’t really care about ordinary people.

With gun crimes rising steadily in recent years, especially among Denver teenagers, I would add violent video games, drug abuse, poor parenting, Covid anxiety, gangs, and plain-old despicable people to the list of answers.

Anyone with a beating heart who heard about the heinous crime that took Naing’s life was immediately struck with overwhelming sadness over the senseless killing of a child.

However, most sympathizers who recognized the horribleness of the tragedy probably talked about it with others, put their feelings aside, and went on about their business.

I get that. It’s exactly how I’ve reacted in the past.

But this time is different because the murder took place close to home, as in a few floors below me in my building, while I was sleeping. It was the first time that I knew I was in close proximity to a homicide being committed.

Upon finding what had happened, a potent mix of sadness, despair, and fear came over me and lingered for days.

With the crime rate going up exponentially, more Denverites may find themselves dealing with the pain and stress that envelops them in the aftermath of a violent act.

Five Degrees of Separation

Even though the vast majority of residents in the Mile High City didn’t know young Mr. Naing, his untimely death has affected or had the potential to affect people in five concentric circles.

The First Degree contains the victim’s family and friends who are devastated by the needless loss of their loved one. Their heartache is gut-wrenching.

The Second Degree is occupied by the person who found the child as he lay dying and called the police. Also, the building superintendent who resurrected the disturbing video of the murder and had to watch it over and over with homicide detectives.

The Third Degree includes traumatized residents like me, who are immensely sad that such an evil act took place in our environment. We are plagued by uncertainty over building security and creeped out by the eeriness of the room where the crime occurred.

The Fourth Degree contains members of the surrounding neighborhood who worry that we could be on the precipice of violent crime becoming a trend in this normally tranquil community.

The Fifth Degree is populated by those who don’t give much thought to dealing with violence that could come knocking at their door someday. Increasing criminal activity is of no concern to them — until it is.

Maybe it’s human nature to pay scant attention to the plight of others in the throes of anxiety due to horrific crime. I, too, was used to surviving glancing blows that land upon hearing about someone else’s misfortune.

But as a city with a growing crime problem, none of us can afford to be blasé about this encroachment any longer.

It’s taken the murder of Khant Naing to hit close to home to force me not to be nonchalant.

I pray I don’t digress.

Jo Ann Allen is the creator and host of the podcast Been There Done That. She started her journalism career in 1975 at The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, WI. She spent 18 years as a news anchor at WNYC/New York Public Radio, and also worked as an anchor at KPBS Radio in San Diego, WHYY Radio in Philadelphia and Colorado Public Radio in Denver.

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