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53-year-old shooting victim’s drug charges are all that matter to The News-Gazette

UPDATE (4:10 pm): The News-Gazette ‘s original article has been edited to no longer include the victim’s past unrelated offenses. The quotes below are 100% accurate in terms of what The News-Gazette originally posted. As of now, they have (rather unethically) made no mention of their changes. 

Last night, a 53 year-old man named Gus Edwards was shot at the corner of Beardsley and Elm in north Champaign. Edwards eventually died from his injuries.

While all of this information was gained from a News-Gazette report about the shooting, the folks over the News-Gazette didn’t stop there.

Instead, they concluded their article by saying this:

On July 14, an Illinois State trooper had stopped to help a disabled car on Interstate 57 northbound near Market Street. The trooper could smell cannabis and the driver handed over a small container to the trooper.

Mr. Edwards was a passenger and disobeyed the trooper’s order to keep his hands where the trooper could see them. When he got out of the car, a bag of crack cocaine fell to the ground and he tried to stomp on it. As the trooper tried to stop that, Mr. Edwards’ hat came off and more suspected cocaine  fell out, for a total of about 3.5 grams.

Mr. Edwards was charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, a Class 1 felony.

Court records show he had multiple felony convictions, including four for drug-related offenses that sent him to prison in 1991, 1996, 2004 and 2010.

You didn’t read that wrong – of all the things to focus on in the aftermath of this event, the N-G is talking about the deceased victim’s nonviolent drug offenses.

It’s irrelevant, it’s unnecessary, and it clearly distracts from a very real issue affecting many in Champaign-Urbana: gun violence.

I know it’s easy to rag on The News-Gazette. I get that – it’s almost stale by now. I have a lot of respect for the work they do, and understand that it’s not easy to run the biggest news outlet in town. What is easy, however, is not blaming victims of senseless violence when they become involved in such tragedy.

Mr. Edwards’ past offenses did not carry a death sentence, and it makes absolutely no sense for them to be brought up in memoriam. This man was someone’s son. Probably someone’s sibling or father. A Champaign family is almost certainly grieving, and this is how The News-Gazette chooses to behave in the wake of destruction. Mr. Edwards was more than a drug user – he was a human being whose death was no less tragic than anyone else’s. To drag his reputation down after his own death is disgusting.

I don’t purport to be a professional journalist (in fact, I’m far from it), but god damn it, this is one of the most unprofessional moves that a publication can make.

Above photo from WCCU

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