Quincy Bell, age 20, was scheduled to appear in Hamilton County General Sessions Court on Monday but instead he was buried on a Field of Honor at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. While I am no judge or jury, that doesn’t sit quite right with me. Quincy Bell, who had a vivid and colorful criminal history on Chattanooga’s streets, was in fact a “validated” member of the Bloodstone Villains street gang at the time he was killed.
While I am deeply saddened by the fact Quincy was found shot and lifeless inside a car at the Kangaroo gas station at the corner of North Moore and Shallowford Road about 4 a.m. Saturday a week ago, I am also heartsick for the thousands of brave men and women who are interred at Chattanooga’s military cemetery after serving our country in a way that gave them the honor of being included in such a hallowed place.
Because the late Bell’s father once served in the military – and because Bell was a minor at the time of his demise – Quincy was laid to rest in Monday’s rain on what I believe was nothing more than a cheap pass. I don’t want to sound sacrosanct or invade on his family’s privacy but Quincy Bell’s life is hardly on the same standard as those who have fought and served our nation at Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge or in the jungles of Viet Nam.
Quincy Ladarrius Bell, back in March of 2010 when he was just 17, was shot at Coolidge Park and, later that year, was sentenced to a suspended 11 months, 29 days after being found guilty of assault. On Sept. 7 of this year – after a slew of arrests and incidents -- Bell was arrested on charges of criminal trespass and that’s why he was supposed to have appeared in court yesterday rather than being buried as Chattanooga’s 17th homicide of the year.
At his time of death, Bell was certified as a “validated” member of the Bloodstone Villains. In order to be “validated” a gang member has to earn a certain number of points used by authorities. Quincy had nine points for self-admission, eight points for gang tattoos, one point for wearing gang colors and two points for “consistent confirmed contact with other gang members.” That’s 20 points -- all it takes is 10 to earn the distinction.
Then there is his sheet or “priors:” multiple arrests for criminal trespass, assault, unlawful carrying a weapon and criminal trespassing. There is some belief he was the victim of a gang-style murder and overwhelming evidence he was little more than a young thug.
I am told the National Cemetery has no rules nor restrictions regarding a minor’s behavior if the family wishes a child to be buried with a parent who was a veteran. Obviously Monday’s funeral clearly concerns many family members whose parents and loved ones dutifully earned the right to be there because Bell clearly did not.
“My Dad grew up in the Depression, served his country fighting in the Pacific in World War II, and wanted to be buried with kindred spirits and fellow patriots and warriors in the National Cemetery,” said a former Army officer. “This is an outrage if it is true.” According to obituary notices and criminal files, it all is very true.
There are those who will argue that Quincy Bell was a victim of “society,” that he was just a child when he first got shot and back when he started running with a horrendous crowd, but far more others will say that during their military careers there were a great number of 18- and 19-year-olds in their ranks whose lives were altered and salvaged by service to our nation. Quincy Bell made different choices.
Some of the same young men and women who have been buried down through the years at the sprawling cemetery on Holtzclaw Avenue were also Bell’s age when they got there. They paid the ultimate price for the very freedoms Quincy Bell repeatedly chose to tarnish. I am so sorry but, in my heart, nobody from the Bloodstone Villains should be allowed to defile their final resting place.
Some years ago I spent a full day in northern France at Normandy. I walked on Omaha Beach and I wept unashamedly as I walked in the American cemetery there. Did you know that not one of the millions who visit there each year ever speaks above a whisper? Did you know that every blade of grass is cut by only mowers that are made in America, and that every service vehicle is a Ford or a Chevrolet? It is, indeed, American soil.
But here, where thousands just as noble and great and beloved are buried, there is now a thorn among our nation’s roses and if we fail to speak up for their honor and heritage and memory, then who among us will? The United States of America has just witnessed another travesty and I am heartsick about it.