Alex Anthony would have been 14 on Thursday, and several dozen relatives and friends gathered at his school, Harshman Middle School, to mark the occasion.
Alex died last September when a stray bullet hit him in the head while he was walking to his grandmother's house in the 1700 block of Rural Street on the Eastside. A gunfight had erupted suddenly. Two cars sped past, their occupants firing at each other. Alex was hit.
The incident punctuated a violent year in Indianapolis, which had a near-record homicide toll in 2006. The boy's death marked the 114th homicide that year.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, who was with Alex's family at the memorial gathering Thursday morning, called Alex's death "one of those painful moments in what was a painful year, an innocent child literally caught in the crossfire."
If Mayor Peterson weren't in the midst of a tough re-election campaign, it is doubtful he would have noticed the memorial service Alex's family held yesterday. Ironically, while Alex's family was burying their son last September, Mayor Peterson was in the midst of relinquishing control of the newly-formed IMPD to Sheriff Frank Anderson. When he was elected mayor 8 years ago, his number one priority was the war on crime and hiring 100 new police officers. Today, there are more than a hundred vacant positions in the police department and Mayor Peterson is still promising more than a hundred new police officers with the approval of his $90 million, 65% increase in the county option income tax. I've always felt very uneasy when politicians show up at funerals of people they've never met, but Mayor Peterson's appearance at Alex's memorial service yesterday was particularly stomach-turning.
On a side note, political columnist Matt Tully devotes an entire column today calling for the banning of smoking at the Indiana State Fair. I despise smoking as much as Matt does, but I think there's plenty more in the political arena to be writing about these days than smoking at the state fair. Leave those stories to the health writer, Matt. Let's get back to the fascinating year in politics we're having here in this state and this city.