In the Heat of the Night

i282600889611518637._szw1280h1280_There are no words for this. All the language that I know is inadequate for what I want to express, but for Darren I will try. I can’t describe him with cliches and platitudes – I need to do better than that. He deserves better than that.

My husband was an incredibly, intricate blend of toughness and gentility. He was loyal…fiercely so. And he was ethical; the right thing to do is what guided his internal compass. I admired this quality, perhaps the most. For that’s what made Darren good and he was good. So, if people want to know what kind of man he was….this is it. He was who you wanted for a friend, a colleague and a neighbor.

However, it is I who was blessed so richly that I had the privilege of calling him my husband and my best friend.

–Kathleen Goforth

Until last Friday night I had never heard of Darren Goforth and probably never would have were it not for a random act of violence that took his life. He was a ten year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department whose beat took him around the Cypress community. From all accounts being in law enforcement was something that he had felt called to do, a vocation. I’ve known other people who also felt that they were called by a higher power to be peace keepers but for one reason or another they were not able to make it through the grueling process of becoming an officer. I remember being quite surprised at how much testing and education is involved.  Like many I had always assumed that if one wanted to be a policeman it was just a matter of signing up and undergoing a background check. I learned that there is so much more to it than that. It seems that many are called but few are chosen. Frankly I find it to be such a dangerous and sometimes thankless career that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do it and yet there are men like Darren Goforth who somehow feel compelled to serve society in one of the most hazardous jobs that there is. 

Those who knew Officer Goforth speak of him with high regard. He was a true professional who was well known in the area. One of the many posts that followed the announcement of his death was a photo from last year’s neighborhood night out showing him with a group of children. The commentary noted that he was so wonderfully kind to everyone that evening. It seems from the outpouring of support that has swelled since his murder that he was one of those law enforcement members who had a reputation for kindness and true service. He was respected!

Darren Goforth leaves behind a wife and two young children, a twelve year old girl and a seven year old boy. I think that I have a small sense of how shocked and devastated his family must be. It is indescribably tragic to lose a father so suddenly and particularly in such a senseless way. His loved ones are no doubt shocked and saddened and will be so for a long time to come. Luckily the community is pulling together to support them. Already tens of thousands of dollars have been raised to help them. Sadly there is no amount of money that will replace their loss. 

We have no idea why this happened and I choose not to speculate this early in the proceedings. There is a suspect in custody and only time and much more investigation will determine if he is indeed the perpetrator of the crime. There is a great deal of evidence working against his insistence that he is innocent. He drives the same kind of truck that witnesses saw. A gun that he owns matched the ballistics of the bullets fired into Darren Goforth’s body and he lived only half a mile away from the scene of the crime. Still he deserves a trial and a careful rendering of the facts before we pronounce him guilty or attempt to derive his motives.

We live in a time when all too often there is a rush to judgement that often turns out to be incorrect. I suppose that the media’s lust for a really good story feeds into some of the craziness and invents feelings that might otherwise not have even occurred to people. Our leaders and lawmakers are more apt to quickly take sides than they were in the past even before all of the details have emerged. Instant news all too often results in instant and hot headed reactions. I prefer to wait until we have all of the information before commenting on the suspect and what may have driven him to commit such a heinous crime. 

Still I have to admit that there is a great deal of animosity toward officers of the law of late. I worry about those who are truly good men and women as they go about their work each day. It must be ever more frightening for them and for their families. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to potentially be in harm’s way each and every time that they make a traffic stop or an arrest. The pressure that they feel must often be overwhelming. It is compounded by the fact that of late they are not generally held in high esteem by all citizens. There is a tendency to view them negatively and to criticize the way they do things. We second guess them when we have never been in their shoes. I often wonder how I would react if I felt constant danger at every turn. I suspect that I would run rather than facing the situation. 

What Darren Goforth’s death illustrates is that any member of law enforcement is potentially a target regardless of the circumstances. Officer Goforth must have felt somewhat safe as he pumped gas on Friday night. It was not nearly as disconcerting a task as walking up to a car with unknown passengers in the dark of night. It was a simple act that we all perform without fear. He could not have known the tragedy that was lurking only seconds away. He was unprepared for what happened as were the eye witnesses who must still be in a state of shock due to what they saw. 

Over and over again I have advocated for support of our teachers and our law officers. These are people who have difficult jobs that require constant diligence. All too often they come under fire from a society that condemns the lot of them because of the negligent and criminal actions of the few. The reality is that on a day to day basis tens of thousands of police officers are making cities, towns, and neighborhoods safer places to live by patrolling the streets and dealing with hard core criminals that the rest of us fear. They know all too well that theirs is an uncertain existence. At any moment, even while filling their cars with gasoline, they may become the targets of very bad people.

There is evil in every corner of the world. We’ve seen some bad priests, outrageous teachers, and even once beloved comedians turn ugly. It’s important that we do not indict an entire group because of the crimes of a few. Now more than ever the mostly good cops among us deserve our support and our respect as do the innocent and hard working citizens of every race and creed. We really do need to halt the spread of divisiveness and anger that is attempting to place us all in rival camps. We need to come together and with a resounding voice denounce anyone who would ask us to categorize and stereotype any person or profession. 

Most people operate from good motives. The few who are evil in any group are an aberration. It is important that we remember that fact lest we lose sight of our humanity and individuality. It is wrong to assume universal characteristics for anyone or any community of souls. When tragedy strikes one individual, it strikes us all. Wrongdoing knows no color, religion, occupation, or place, just as integrity is the domain of all good men and women. We are not defined by the accidents of our birth. Our character is the sum total of our actions and what lies in our hearts. Darren Goforth seems to have been a wonderful man who was loved by his family, his coworkers, and the people whose lives he impacted. May he rest in peace and may his family find comfort. May the rest of us think for a moment about how best to come back together as a nation. Lives depend on the choices that we make. 


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