This week three heavily armed young adults, siblings, led police on a dangerous chase from Florida to Colorado before they were finally apprehended in a bloody shootout.
The three, a young woman and her two younger brothers, we collectively labeled the "Dougherty Gang" by America's salivating press corps. Americans, it would seem, are as fascinated with family "gangs" (the James Gang , the Dalton Gang, and the Manson "Family," to name but a few) as they are with their reality television - and the opportunity to focus the attention of a nation of boob-tube addicts on this modern "gang" was irresistible to the news media.
The Dougherty Gang in its heyday - which takes in only a few days in the past week - included 29-year-old Grace who is described in every news story as an "exotic dancer," her 21-year old brother, Dylan, who is identified as a sex offender because of an email that he sent to an 11-year-old girl, and their half-brother Dylan who is twenty-six.
The three had been buying automatic weapons and stockpiling ammunition. Their notoriety began last week when a local deputy in Florida tried to stop them for speeding. They responded by shooting out the tires of the pursuing police car and quickly leaving town. The next day they robbed a bank in Georgia.
Police regarded these heavily armed siblings as extremely dangerous and instituted a nationwide manhunt. A few days later they were spotted at a Wal-Mart in Colorado attempting to buy ammunition. Police pursued them in a high speed chase and were finally able to stop the fugitives by placing spiked strips on the road, successfully blowing the car's tires and causing it to wreck. Grace, the stripper, and apparently the ringleader, climbed out of the destroyed vehicle and began firing on the patrolmen. The police fired back and wounded her in the leg. One of the boys ran for it but was quickly caught, and the other was arrested in the car.
The Dougherty Gang was no more.
When I first read of the Dougherty Gang earlier in the week, one day before their capture, I knew that it would end badly. One of the boys, in fact, text-messaged their mother with a premonition that they would be killed. Fortunately for all concerned, it did not end nearly as badly as it could have. No police were injured or killed, and only Grace was wounded.
What these young people did was wrong. They robbed a bank, and they placed countless law enforcement officers and others in danger with their stockpile of weapons and their willingness to use them.
The Doughety's weren't members of the mythical middle class, and their parent's won't have good lawyers waiting to spring them when they are returned to Florida for trial. The three members of the "gang," all adults, will serve time in prison, and, if they can survive America's uniquely cruel penal system, they will eventually be released back into society. Once outside of the prison walls, they may have it a little easier than some ex-cons because they will be, after all, surviving members of a notorious family gang. People will be probably standing in line to hear their stories, buy their books, or have their pictures taken with genuine American desperadoes.
Maybe that was the plan all along, but even if it wasn't, some seedy promoter will be there trying to capitalize on their notoriety. It's called free enterprise, and it works better than a gun.