By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
The Golden Age of Fear: Shooting kids while they play hide and seek
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Hide and seek is a harmless child’s game, right?

Not in 2023 when we are in the throes of the Golden Age of Fear.

A 58-year-old Louisiana man is in jail today after shooting onto his neighbor’s property.

His target?

Shadows he saw Sunday night prompted him to grab his gun.

And then when he saw the shadows running away, he did what paranoid people are doing these days if they are armed with a weapon — he opened fire.

The Calcasieu Parrish’s Sheriff’s Office released a statement indicating that David Doyle claimed he did not realize he had actually struck somebody.

That somebody was a 14-year-old girl who was hit in the back of the head playing what most people Doyle’s age would view as a wholesome game compared to edgy and much more dangerous pastimes inspired by social media platforms.

Fortunately, the girl — who is in a hospital — does not have life-threatening injuries.

It Is the latest in a long and growing list of paranoia fanned attacks on kids.

Three weeks prior, 6-year-old Kinsley White was shot by a 24-year-old when she entered his yard to retrieve a basketball that had rolled into it. For added measure, police in Florida’s sad Robert Louis Singletary shot her parents as well.

To be clear, one doesn’t have to possess a gun to strike out at kids.

All it can take is consuming 12 cans of beers, seeing a teen moon you,  and becoming angry with rage.

Such is the case of 45-year-old Anurag Chandra in Riverside County in Southern California back on Jan. 19, 2020.

Chandra was convicted a week ago of murder in the death of three 16 year-old boys.

They were among six teens in a Toyota Prius when one was dared to either jump into a pool at night or play “ding dong ditch.”

The teen opted for the doorbell prank.

He ran up to Chandra’s door — a complete stranger — and rang the bell.

After Chandra opened the door, the teen turned around, dropped his pants and mooned Chandra.

Chandra’s defense?

He had feared for his family’s safety and “wanted to express his anger” telling the jury he was “extremely, extremely mad” about the prank.

It didn’t help that he had consumed 12 beers in the hours leading up to the doorbell ringing.

 So. Chandra jumped into his vehicle and went after the six boys.

He eventually caught up with them, ramming the Prius at 99 mph and sending it into a tree.

Chandra, by the way, was awaiting prosecution on domestic violence charges at the time of the incident.

April also saw 16 year-old Ralph Yarl who was shot and wounded by an 84-year-old man who opened fire through a glass door after he went to the wrong house to pick up two siblings and rang the doorbell.

The suspect told authorities he was “scared to death”.

Andrew Lester told police he was in bed when the doorbell rang, grabbed his gun and then — because after opening the main door and seeing the teen — became fearful of the teen’s size and whether he could defend himself before opening fire through a screen door.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. People have been shot while backing up after realizing they turned into the wrong driveway, shot while making Door Dash deliveries, and shot after they got into the wrong car, realized it, and got out.

These incidents did not occur in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Oakland, or whatever big city has a reputation of being a shooting gallery and a Mecca for violence.

The shooters aren’t all angry old men, nor are they all white.

The victims aren’t all minorities.

These incidents are taking place across the country in suburbia, small towns, and quiet neighborhoods.

The common thread is paranoia fueled by fear.

It is not a modern malady.

But the deep prevalence of fear in our everyday lives is.

The more we hear something, the more we tend to be consumed by it.

The Missing Children Milk Carton Program launched in the mid-1980s to find abducted children illustrates what happens.

The FBI reports, on average, fewer than  350 people under the age of 21 are abducted by strangers. Of those, less than 120 are under 18 years of age.

Non-custodial parent kidnappings are a 1,000 times higher.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicates 800,000 children a year are reported missing. Of those, 99 percent return home.

That includes 200,000 taken by family members — sometimes during custody battles — those who are lost, injured, or are runaways.

To be clear, one missing child is one too many. Stanger danger lessons are critical.

That said, there are those who are convinced from the constant bombardment of numbers — even though stranger abductions extremity rare — that their child is in eminent danger of being kidnapped.

Vigilance is good. Losing perspective and having it boil over into paranoia isn’t.

A local example was the 2008 case when a terrified malnourished 16-year-old boy wearing only boxer shorts with a heavy chain around his ankle escaped a nearby home where a guardian had held him captive and tortured for a year had made his way to the Tracy In Shape  on Tracy Boulevard.

Cable news was saturated 24/7 every 15 minutes with “updates” for two days.

More than a few people started seeing that as the norm.

It is little wonder in 2023 with such cable programming on steroids, the instantaneous spread of exaggerated information and rumors via social media that are repeated over and over again until your senses become numb that many have become paranoid and/or in a constant state of rage.

A teen mooning you playing a stupid game of ding dong ditch? Run them down.

A 6-year-old disrespecting your property by retrieving their errant ball? Shoot them and their parents.

Mysterious shadows in the neighbor’s yard at night?  The hordes are combining to kill young and not  possibly something as innocent as kids playing hide and seek or even your neighbor chasing off a cat in his own yard.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had it right.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

That’s because fear drives us to make rash decisions.

 And nothing fans fear and rash decision more than a 24/7 diet of social media and cable TV news programs.