The unending ballad of Willie and Bronco

It takes three to make a trend, but maybe the word doesn't apply for a city like Detroit, where the extraordinary news that fills the daily papers makes it one of the most interesting cities in the country.

Last week, a 75-year-old man shot and killed an 18-year-old who had just kicked in his side door. So many fascinating details in this one: The weapon was an SKS, a Russian-made semi-automatic rifle one doesn't generally associate with home defense. The homeowner, Willie White, said he'd loaded it after someone had broken one of his windows the previous day. His aim was true; he nailed young Bronco Mosely as he stepped through the door he'd just breached.

And earlier this week, an unidentified 38-year-old Detroit woman dispatched an intruder in similar circumstances, scattering a gang in the process of entering her home.

Given that these incidents happened in Detroit, and given that they seem to be entirely within the law -- the Wayne County prosecutor ruled White was justified in using deadly force -- I doubt they'll get much publicity outside of the area and a few gun-enthusiast websites.

It's been a tough winter in Detroit, and I'm not talking about the weather. Several children have been killed or injured when they found themselves in the path of flying bullets. Even in a city inured to violence, these crimes have been shocking. (And made the news media look even sillier, as it worked itself into a sweeps-month frenzy when a Grosse Pointe woman was found dead in the city in January, especially when police announced she'd been killed in the suburbs and dumped in the D.) And while it's tempting to cheer these self-protecting Detroiters, I can't help but be saddened. In the clamor of recent weeks over the city's finances, cases like this cut through the yelling and remind us of what too many residents have to live with on a daily basis.

Shouting over a rumor that the art museum's treasures will be sold off at Christie's, or Belle Isle turned over to profiteeers, are only static. The larger truth is that until the city rights itself, and residents can feel reasonably safe there again, it's all just sound and fury, or maybe a blues song, waiting to be written.

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