Black men are America's most likely crime victims. Even Latino men, who suffer high homicide rates, are considerably less likely than black men to be murdered. How unsafe are black men? Suffice to say they are safer in prison than on the streets of Los Angeles County.
This week HR begins an occasional series of interviews on the subject of black men as crime victims.
Name: Romeo Bryant
Means of support: None, since he was disabled by a shooting. Previously, he painted houses intermittently. He stays in Florence and Watts.
Chance that he will be murdered in a given year*: 15.9 in 10,000 (based on his age, race and gender).
Chance a Latino man his age will be: 2.1 in 10,000.
Chance a white man his age will be: 0.6 in 10,000.
Q. How many people close to you have you lost to homicide?
A. Two cousins. About 40 friends. My brother is paralyzed. He uses a wheelchair. He was hit in the head in an assault in 1986.
Q. How many times have you been shot at?
Q. How many times have you been hit?
A. Once. On June 24, 2005, in Florence.
Q. Can you describe your experience?
A. I got off the bus. I had been working. I was walking. I had a bad feeling. This Mexican guy approached. He was in a black Acura. He hit me up. He said, "Hey, where you from?" I said, "Nowhere!" I had paint all over my clothes. I even had paint on my face....
He went around the block and came back. I was on the sidewalk. He was leaning out the driver's side window, about 8 or 10 feet away. He unloaded his gun. After the third shot, my leg felt hot. It went numb.
I didn't fall, but I stopped. I was looking down the barrel of a gun. The guy kept firing. It was dark--dusk-like. I could see the fire of the gun, and behind it, I could see his eyes. He was about 16 years old. He looked scared. A bullet went by my nose. There were bullets all around me. I just stood there. I felt like I had a shield. He shot 14 times. He was a bad shot. Then he said, "f--- n------," and burnt rubber, and took off.
I called my friend Earl. He lives nearby. He's a Mexican. He came out and made a tourniquet. He made it out of a belt, a towel and a T-shirt. The cops were there in 30 seconds, but the ambulance took forever. All the way to the hospital, the paramedics took my blood pressure, and it kept dropping: 65...53...48. After I woke up from surgery, I still had paint on my face."
Q. Can you describe your injury?
A. My leg. It still hurts. It's numb when I try to get up. They took skin grafts from my thigh.
Q. Did the police catch a suspect?
A. I think so. They wanted me to testify. I wouldn't.
Q. Are you afraid?
A. I don't feel safe. I won't even go to the store. But before I was shot I was really paranoid. Now, I don't know. I don't care so much.
Q. What would it take to make you safe?
A. I'd have to move into the mountains like that homeboy Gentle Ben. Way up into the mountains.
*The homicide risk calculations above are based on homicide figures from the Los Angeles County Health Department for male adults 30 to 34 in the year 2004. The figure for Bryant's risk is based on homicide death rates for black men in his 30-34 age group.