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A Kid Dies in Cleveland By: John Perazzo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 25, 2002

On his sentencing date this past April, a convicted killer stood before Richard and Carol Bozak in a Cleveland courtroom. By the time the Bozaks were finished addressing this man who had slain their thirteen-year-old son Raymond last summer, there wasn’t a dry eye among anyone in attendance. Describing the anguish that they and their four other children had endured since the day of Raymond’s death, the Bozaks made it clear that their lives would never again be the same.

Raymond was a really nice kid. He attended Saint Paul School in Euclid, and held an after-school job delivering a weekly newspaper called the Sun Scoop Journal. Like so many youngsters, he liked playing with his electronic Game Boy, riding his bicycle, and playing baseball in the Northeast Cleveland Little League. Notably, he also enjoyed bringing gifts of fruits and vegetables to his neighbors in town. For this purpose, last August 21 he made an afternoon trip to Cavotta’s Garden Center in Cleveland to gather some produce. By the time 5 p.m. rolled around, he and a few friends were happily immersed in the task of picking pears from a tree and placing them into a wagon containing some tomatoes and apples they had already gathered. Yes, all in all, Raymond was a really nice, thoughtful kid.

Then suddenly, without warning or provocation, the passenger in a passing car fired a high-powered air rifle at Raymond — and laughed with glee upon seeing that the boy had been struck. The pellet penetrated the youngster’s flesh and broke an artery in his lung, causing him to bleed to death within a short time. The driver of the car from which the fatal shot was fired, Dontell Lassiter, was eventually sentenced to five years of community control sanctions. The gunman, Andre Beasley, was sentenced to six years in prison.

This story didn’t make much of a splash in the media. But that is standard procedure for cases like this, where black assailants and white victims are involved. The New York Times was silent. The Los Angeles Times turned a blind eye. USA Today didn’t notice. The Washington Post devoted all of 52 words to the incident — with no mention of its interracial component. Relatively few Americans outside of Ohio ever heard about Raymond Bozak’s death.

Like the Washington Post account, an Associated Press wire story ignored the racial angle completely. "A boy was shot and killed while picking fruit with friends," read the AP version, "who told police a gunman fired from a passing car." In its description of the leads the police were following, the AP story stated, "Police are looking for a light-blue car, possibly a Chevrolet Celebrity. Two men seen in the car were thought to be in their late 30s or early 40s." For some reason, the color of the car — but not of the men — was deemed relevant. Similarly, the perceived age of the suspects found its way into the story, but not their perceived race. Given that the suspects were, at that time, still at large, would it not have been logical to at least mention that they were black — so that Cleveland residents who might have potentially helped locate the culprits would have had a bit more information? After all, a suspect’s skin color is far easier for witnesses to accurately identify than is a suspect’s age. And indeed, it turned out that Lassiter and Beasley were both under twenty years old — meaning that the report of their estimated ages was far off base, and thus actually counterproductive to the search effort.

In the relatively light attention that the local media gave the story, the element of race was similarly ignored — in stark contrast to the manner in which white-on-black attacks are typically covered. The Akron Beacon Journal reported only that "two men" had been arrested in connection with "a fatal drive-by shooting that apparently began as a prank." The sole mention of color in the article was a reference to Bozak’s neighborhood as a "blue collar" area. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s version was virtually identical: "Two young men have been arrested in a fatal drive-by BB shooting that apparently began as a prank two days before one suspect arrived at college." Sun Newspapers reported, "On Aug. 21, two teenagers driving past Cavotta Garden Center on Nottingham Road fired a BB from a high-powered air rifle and hit 13-year-old Raymond Bozak. He died an hour later." On its Website, Cleveland’s WKYC Television reported that "Raymond Bozak...was murdered as he picked fruit at a Nottingham Road nursery. The teen-ager was killed by two youths who fired a pellet gun as if it were a drive-by shooting."

In cases like the killing of Raymond Bozak, it is difficult not to notice the glaring absence of any journalistic references to race. This is not to say that race should always be a central focus of crime reporting, nor that it was even a motivating factor in Bozak’s shooting. But one may legitimately ask why the media employ such a blatant double standard that assiduously explores racial angles in cases of white-on-black attacks, but routinely dismisses such angles when the races are reversed.

John Perazzo is the Managing Editor of DiscoverTheNetworks and is the author of The Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations. For more information on his book, click here. E-mail him at WorldStudiesBooks@gmail.com

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