Fate is often a cruel and ironic two edged sword. I witnessed such, along with area TV viewers, as Illinois State Trooper Nicholas Hopkins was killed in a shootout as his SWAT team attempted to execute a search warrant in East St. Louis recently.
It was a cruel and needless end to the life of the 10-year Illinois State Police veteran, husband and father of 4-year-old twins and an infant daughter, making him an instant hometown hero in Waterloo, Illinois and among the local law enforcement community.
And it concurrently ended the freedom of 45-year-old Christopher Grant, a felon with an extensive list of convictions, ranging from gun and drug possession to obstruction of justice, making him an instant hometown and area villain. He has been charged with first-degree murder.
My cousins Tracy and Terrence Hargrove Sr., the parents of freshman Saint Louis University star hoopster Terrence Hargrove Jr., live on the same block where this horrific spectacle took place.
As fate would have it, their home was spared from the danger of flying bullets. Terrence Jr. was safely away on the campus of SLU after a summer of workouts and earning a 3.7 GPA in his summer classes.
In East Boogie, the blessing of an educational escape to a college campus or military career is often the difference between life and death. I can count on two hands the number of associates and friends who were either shot, killed or incarcerated after I was blessed to matriculate to the safer confines of Boston University.
Little did I know at the time that it may have been the very thing, along with great parents and a spiritual upbringing, that shielded and buffered me from a possible stray bullet, unseen danger or simply guilt by association.
I’m sure that those from the ghettos of St. Louis, Harlem, South Central L.A., Chicago and Detroit can relate.
It’s the family of Trooper Hopkins and others who probably question fate when their loved ones seemingly have done all the right things, yet the wrong thing happens.
The hardest funerals to attend are those when a person or child who causes no trouble for others loses their life needlessly. Yet Biblical scripture admonishes us, for those who believe, that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
In this recent tragedy, two lives were lost: the life of a budding law enforcement officer, as well as the life of a black man who, God knows, could have accomplished greatness with the proper mentors, family circumstances and opportunity.
May God grant peace to the families of both Trooper Hopkins and Christopher Grant as they grapple with their legacies and fates.