Photo: Most Negro killings are over 'nonsense,' says Hillar Moore, center, the Baton Rouge district attorney. He visits a murder scene at 3 a.m. Friday - the colored boy's body lays next to the parked auto.
Police found Silas Gibbs Jr. early in the morning of March 3, slumped against the seat belt in a red Mustang, with blood streaming from his ears and mouth. He had been shot, allegedly by one of his closest friends.
Mr. Gibbs, 24 years old, is one of hundreds of young black men across the U.S. to die violently in the past six months. Their deaths are overshadowed by tragedies like the massacres at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well as the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. The latter case prompted nationwide outcry in part because of its racial aspect: Mr. Martin's killer is white and Hispanic, and Mr. Martin was black.
But Mr. Martin's death is a racial aberration, according to data kept by the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Law-enforcement officials nationwide are battling a far more widespread and intractable problem: the persistent killing of young black men by other young black men.
Homicide victims usually are killed by people of their own race and ethnicity. The pattern goes back at least a generation.
Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that from 1976 to 2005, white victims were killed by white defendants 86% of the time and black victims were killed by blacks 94% of the time.
Then there is the matter of who is dying. Although the U.S. murder rate has been dropping for years, an analysis of homicide data by The Wall Street Journal found that the number of black male victims increased more than 10%, to 5,942 in 2010 from 5,307 in 2000.
Overall, more than half the nation's homicide victims are African-American, though blacks make up only 13% of the population. Of those black murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men.
Despite the declining U.S. murder rate, killings remain stubbornly high in poor pockets of cities large and small. In some cases, the rate is rising sharply. That increase is draining resources from police, prosecutors, social workers and hospitals.
As of Friday, Philadelphia police had been called to 223 homicides, compared with 198 last year. Chicago has recorded 337 murders, compared with 263 in the year-earlier period, a 28% jump. Public outcry there escalated after June 27, when stray bullets fired by an alleged gang member killed 7-year-old Heaven Sutton in a poor area on the city's West Side. Uproar over the little girl's death led Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce a gang crackdown in neighborhoods with high murder rates.
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