Last Thursday, slain rapper Nipsey Hussle was mourned in a fashion fit for a distinguished statesman: a funeral attended by 21,000 people at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, followed by a 25-mile procession, where thousands more thronged the route and showered the passing hearse with flowers and other mementos of devotion.
The entire affair was streamed live on the internet, and as someone who once had a professional interest in Mr. Hussle and his associates, I checked in from time to time to see how things were progressing. As the procession brought traffic to a standstill across large sections of South L.A., I couldn’t help but wonder how Aaron Shannon’s parents might be feeling if they had found themselves caught in the commotion.
If he were alive today, Aaron Shannon would be 14 years old, and his parents, like those of many boys in certain parts of Los Angeles, would be doing their best to inoculate him against the gang culture that has brought so much death and misery to the city. How Aaron’s parents must wish they had to face that challenge today.
But Aaron Shannon is not alive today, having been murdered in 2010 when he was just five years old. It was the afternoon of Halloween that year when Aaron, playing in his backyard and dressed in his Spider-Man costume, was shot in the head and killed by gang members seeking retribution for an earlier shooting. Aaron’s grandfather and uncle were also shot that day but survived. No one in the family was affiliated with a street gang.