I have met the next mass shooter. No one cares.

Let me explain.

I am a police officer. I have been one for 27 years, and I’ve been an arson investigator since 2007. Before that I investigated homicides and assaults.

I am a frequent letter-writer to the Star Tribune. Mostly they are about my political leanings (I am the rare “out” liberal in the department). But I have written about my job before, most notably about a long-ago homicide.

Now I write about a current case where I have seen the future, and it is bad.

I cannot give you names; those involved are juveniles. They are both under 13 separated by about two years. Both are males. Both come from dysfunctional homes. Both have little to no supervision or guidance. Let’s just say stability does not exist for either of them. Both are well acquainted with the child protection and child welfare system.

Both belong to a group sometimes referred to as “throwaway” children. You meet them and you know just where their futures lie. The older one, as bad as his life is (and it is bad), will be absorbed into our criminal justice system. He will become another in a long line of lost potentials sitting in prison. As cold as it sounds he will die young — before he is 30. And I believe I am being optimistic.

But the younger one — he scares me. I do not scare easy. I have sat across a table from a lot of bad people, mostly adults. I listen to what they have to say about why they did whatever it is I am questioning them about. I do my investigation, submit the case and move on.

I have developed a pretty heavy armor over the years. I have been amazed, appalled, saddened and gobsmacked, but rarely scared.

The case I am working on may not seem like much from the outside. It doesn’t seem like much compared with many other fire cases I work on. A playground was burned. Totally destroyed. I cannot go into detail as to how the names of the two boys were developed, but my partner and I located the two boys, together, a few days after the fire. Both admitted to doing the deed. When asked why, the older of the two stated simply that he just wanted to set it on fire. That answer neither surprised me nor did it really answer the question. Seriously, it was the response I expected.

The younger one, though? His answer is a different matter.

My partner asked him why, and he replied that no one really cares about him and he used to be bullied on the slide of the playground equipment that he burned.

No one cares about me and I was bullied.

He was still wearing the same clothes he’d had on when he and his accomplice set the fire several days before.

No one cares about me and I was bullied.

Think about this. At his very young age he carries that kind of anger. So much that he sets the slide on fire where other kids bullied him. He knows where to take his anger out and how best to mete out that anger with maximum effect.

Now, extend that anger and desperation out — four, five, six more years. He is bigger, stronger, more street-wise and a lot more angry. How do you think that anger will be meted out then?

I have done my due diligence, contacted child protection services and social workers. This case will go forward in my lane, which is to say it will be presented on the criminal side. I have no doubt it will be adjudicated in some capacity on my side. But one of the things I heard in speaking with the “other lane” was, “Can’t the police do something?”

Seriously. I understand that at times getting a case such as this into the system may be the catalyst needed to get help for those who need it. I have done so with adult cases. But this is a child. He is a throwaway.

No one cares about me and I was bullied.

In light of the devastation this country has experienced in the past two weeks with mass shootings, this kid scares me. He should scare everyone.

There are choices we make as a society. Choices we make as individuals. The choices we make as a society are, for the most part, grounded in the experience of history and what works best for the social contract among us all. But choices made as individuals are, first, taught — a cause-and-effect sort of thing.

You build your life, your beliefs and find your path through what you are taught and shown.

If you are taught hate, you will hate, yourself and others. If you are taught respect, you will respect, yourself and others. If pain is inflicted upon you, you will inflict pain upon others.

I have met the next mass shooter.

No one cares about me. I was bullied.

 

 

Erika Christensen, of Lake Elmo, is a police officer.