Cecil the human was a humble handyman shot to death as he set off for work in the predawn darkness.
Folks who never met him did not change their Facebook profile pics to Cecil the human as they did with Cecil the lion.
Cecil the human’s likeness was not projected on the side of the Empire State Building in New York the way a photo of Cecil the lion was on Saturday evening.
Never mind that Cecil the human possessed a nobility of a particular kind that marked him as one of the best of our species.
“By all accounts, just a good man, highly regarded,” Chief Robert Byrd of the Northwest Indiana Violent Crime Task Force told The Daily Beast. “A terrible loss for sure.”
According to his online obituary, Cecil Pendleton Jr. was 55 years old and a father of three, with two grandchildren. He served in the U.S. Air Force until 1981 and then labored for 22 years in a steel mill, working second jobs as a security guard and as a deliveryman. He still made time to take his kids camping and on church retreats, and to volunteer as a basketball coach.
“His whole life was spent making sure his family was taken care of or enjoying spending time with them,” the obituary says.
He also volunteered with the family readiness group while a now grown son—Captain Cecil Pendleton III—deployed to Afghanistan with the 713th Engineer Company of the Indiana National Guard in 2012. Six of the unit’s 101 soldiers were killed.
On his off hours, the elder Cecil loved to watch auto racing. His obituary adds, “but [he] never raced anywhere he was going; in fact he never got a ticket for speeding, only for going too slow.”
At 5 a.m. on May 6, the elder Cecil left his apartment in Merrillville for his latest job as a handyman. He was heading for his van when he chanced upon a group of thieves who had been breaking into cars, apparently in search of guns.
“Let’s face it, people keep guns in their cars,” an Indiana law enforcement official later said.
The official added that thieves will “pass up the radar detectors and even the loose change in the center console,” but “they’re going into the glove box and under the seats” in search of what prompted them to break in.
“It’s the easy way to get guns,” the official observed.
Rather than scatter when they saw Cecil, the thieves started toward him.
“They saw him, they targeted him,” the official reported.
Neighbors who had slept with their windows open in the warm weather heard Cecil shout.
“Get away from me! Leave me alone!”
Cecil dashed for the safety of his van and was attempting to drive away when the robbers fired through his passenger-side window. He was still alive when the police arrived, but doctors at a nearby hospital were unable to save him.
Police subsequently named four young men in connection with the killing. One was taken into custody, but the three others remain at large.
In the meantime, the list of gunshot victims in Indiana and elsewhere has continued to grow. Daja the human, aged 15, was shot to death in Gary bordering Merrillville on Sunday night. Daja Brookshire was climbing out of a car with her boyfriend and a friend outside the home of the friend’s grandmother when a gunman in a passing car opened fire. She suffered a mortal wound in the back. Police described her as a “good kid.”
A short drive away in Chicago, the weekend saw three humans killed and 37 wounded, including a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy.
And so it goes, sometimes in big massacres that grab our attention, most often in small numbers that receive scant notice and then are forgotten altogether by everyone except the loved ones.
On Monday, Senator Chuck Schumer and the actress Amy Schumer, his cousin, teamed up to call for stricter gun-control laws that would keep firearms out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill. A man with a history of psychiatric problems had been able to purchase legally the handgun he then produced during a showing of Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two innocents and then himself.
“We should be doing everything in our power to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of hateful evildoers and the mentally ill,” Schumer the senator said in a statement to the press.
That is more than true. Yet in too much of a nation flooded with guns, anyone barred from legally purchasing a firearm need only break into a few cars.
An Indiana law enforcement official noted on Monday that this is the routine gang members follow after they get locked up and come back out.
“Replenishing their weaponry, if you will,” the official said.
The result in Merrillville was the death of Cecil the human. The carnage will only stop if we ever find it in ourselves to be at least as horrified by the killing of a noble being such as Cecil the human as we were by the killing of Cecil the lion.
Yes, the photo of the dead lion tugs at the heart.
But take a look at the photo the younger Cecil Pendleton posted on Facebook four days after the older Cecil was murdered. The picture shows the son in his Army dress uniform being embraced by his father, who beams with the joy of having his boy back safe after deployments first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.
“His family and friends will miss his huge heart, bright smile, and his firm hug,” says the obituary for this most human of Cecils, who was shot to death as he set off for work.