I never knew Greg Gunn. I had never heard his name before it came on a local news broadcast that explained how he was shot and killed by a Montgomery police officer. Though I follow social justice matters, care very much about these issues, and am writing a book about Montgomery’s most infamous police shooting, that doesn’t mean that I understand this current situation. I’ve hesitated to write about Greg Gunn’s death at all.
The people of Montgomery, regardless of race or perspective, are anguished by this situation— each person for his or her own reason. While some people are worried, others are angry, but all of Montgomery is tense and waiting to see what will happen. Untimely death is never a good thing, no matter the circumstances, no matter the victim, no matter from disease or from accident or from violence, so to be upset about Greg Gunn’s untimely death is right, absolutely right. Yet, there is a larger dimension to this untimely death, since it follows a string of incidents too much like it.
Last week, when I turned on NPR’s morning news as I was driving to school, the Greg Gunn story was being featured on their national broadcast. Whether we like it or not, Montgomery is now the focus of the unseemly attention that no city wants. In this time, we need truth. I hope that anyone who is interviewed by any media source will confine their remarks to what they know to be true, rather than resorting to inflammatory speculation or nuanced insinuations. These situations, as tragic as they are, are never improved by baseless public guesswork.
As a Christian, I mourn Greg Gunn’s death. Because I wasn’t there, I don’t know what he did or didn’t do that night, but I do know that he shouldn’t have died at the hands of another man, no matter whether that man wore a government-issued uniform or not. I hear all the time that Alabama is place of Christian values, and if that is true, then we need those Christian values now— by seeking truth and justice, and valuing kindness and peace. Tragedies can bring out the best and the worst in people, and we in Montgomery have the choice of what this tragedy will bring out in each of us.