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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Change sometimes isn't so fast


Angel Franco/The New York Times

Yes, the Ill Will Can Be Subtle. Then, One Day, It Isn’t.

By DAN BARRY
Published: January 21, 2007

GREENWOOD, La.
Bullets shattered the peace in the home of Ernest Lampkins, mayor of Greenwood, La. Who did it remains unknown. To Mr. Lampkins, the motive is clear.

Midnight in a handsome one-story house on Waterwood Drive. Hours after Ernest and Shirley Lampkins say goodnight to their teenage daughter, Brett, and to the first Sunday of the new year, a Sunday of churchgoing and turkey and chili and some of those sweet frozen grapes that Ernest likes so much. Two bullets pay a call.

They explode through the living room window. They tear through the soft-yellow curtains that Shirley ordered from a catalog. They rocket past the Easter basket containing family snapshots, past Brett’s bedroom door, past Ernest’s antique upright piano, past the framed portrait of father, mother and daughter in serene pose.

One bullet strikes a golden candelabrum and splits: half whistles into a wall near the kitchen; half crashes through a French door — turning smooth glass into a spider’s web of shards — and into the sunroom, four steps from the master bedroom.

The other bullet slams so hard into the living room wall that it has to be pried out. “It was a piece of lead about the size of my thumb,” Mr. Lampkins recalls. “They use that for killing deer.”

There are no deer in the Lampkins home. Only Brett, 17, a high school junior, who has just learned to drive and wears slippers that look like kittens. And Shirley, 62, a retired high school English teacher and administrator, who enjoys gardening and makes a delectable fig cake. And Ernest, 78, a retired educator who has a doctorate in ethnomusicology and is known throughout Louisiana for reaching children through music.

Oh. One more thing about Ernest. He is also the mayor here in Greenwood, a quiet town of 2,600 a few miles west of Shreveport. Greenwood has a Dollar General store, a Mexican restaurant and some antebellum homes, including one once used as a Confederate hospital. It is predominantly white.

Oh. And one more thing about the Lampkinses. They are black.

On that night, Mr. and Mrs. Lampkins hear no gunshots, but their home alarm sounds, and they leave their bedroom to investigate. They stare at the shattered glass, and then at the holes in the front window. It does not register. Then it does.

As the police arrive to interview and to collect the shell casings from the street, it is hard to forget that several days earlier, the black mayor in Westlake, about 230 miles south of here, was found shot to death, and that some people there dispute findings that he killed himself.
Running for office can still be deadly for black men.

posted by Steve @ 12:24:00 AM

12:24:00 AM

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