Thursday, May 20, 2010

Officer Thomas Wortham IV

Every death has meaning, for individuals, for communities as small as families and as large as cities.

Each violent death of a police officer stands for a special assault on our society. They are the representatives of law and order, the keepers of our perimeter security and the security of our possessions, our children, our spiritual homes on earth and our material goods, our lives and in a way, even our good fortune. Over the past few decades, they have also been charged with duties related to many of our burgeoning ideals: safe schools for all, safe public housing, youth efforts, battered women efforts, and a method of policing that brings back community and reinforces the equality of all.

After the Lakewood massacre last year, I took a long hard look at myself. Is it enough to talk about the deaths that everyone talks about? Does it take four officers at once and a thousand news articles to get my attention? I decided I would not be a fellow traveler on the journalistic surge. I would make a commitment to pay constant attention despite the rise and fall of information, and write a monthly post.

But this police death resonates for me, I think in part because it shows quite clearly that these murders disrupt love and attachment as well as law and order. I am moved to tears. But that's enough about me.

Officer Thomas Wortham IV
Officer Thomas Wortham IV of the Chicago Police Department was killed at 11:30 p.m. on May 19, 2010, right in front of his parent's house. Three people were trying to steal his motorcycle. They shot him for it, an off-duty police officer who had stopped by to visit his parents.

His father is a retired police officer also from Chicago. He shot two of the murderers. One survived. The third murderer escaped.  The amount of sorrow and stress on Thomas Wortham III must be huge right now. I hope you will keep him in your thoughts. Mrs. Wortham must be in considerable pain of grief as well as worry for her husband. I hope you will send a wish for her strength.

By all accounts they raised a fine son. Thomas Wortham IV was back from two tours in Iraq. He had recently attended the National Police Week memorial services. Both he and his father are getting comments of sincere respect for their fine body of police work in the past at Second City Cop blog, a place where honest rudeness is not unknown.

So he was a sterling officer who worked hard for his country and risked everything for us, at home and abroad. You cannot think that he was oblivious to death. He and his family probably knew that he was in danger of dying before they did, for a good long time. But he probably never thought his parents would have to see it happen right in front of them.

I never knew Officer Wortham, but I grieve just the same. I offer condolences to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wortham III, who loved and raised a fine man. All that you did for the society I know and love, I thank you very much. I thank your son for what he contributed. I am so very sorry for your loss.

The picture is from this good article in the Chicago Tribune.
The initial post on Officer Wortham at Second City Cop is has comments conveying heart-break, anger, frustration. I am sure Second City Cop will have more posts in future.

Vigil for Thomas Wortham; fourth assailant arrested--at Chicago Tribune's Breaking News.
Grief and bad politics at SSC  and the Tribune over Officer Wortham's death


Ann T. said...

Dear Readers,
As of this writing, you will not find anything on the City of Chicago Web site, the Chicago Police Department Web site,, including the press release section or the blog. This angers me greatly.

Ann T. Hathaway

Bob G. said...

This is such a tragic event...and to not have the news MENTION this is beyond contempt (imho anyway).

Society has been slipping down the slope for some time now, and yet, every once in a while, it halts for a brief time.

The sad part is, society has yet to find a way to extricate itself from this slope and climb ABOVE where we seem to be headed.

And it's officers like Tom Wortham that stand as silent reminders of just how FAR we have to go, and how MUCH MORE we need to pursue justice and bring the job of a LEO back to the level of near-reverence that I remember.

Here is a man who deserved ALL our respect, and not because he just wore the shield...
He was a man who had a love of family and that "divine spark" many lack today.

Rest easy, officer...we show you signal *88* (end tour of duty)

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
You are right about his deserving respect, for what he did and mostly for who he was. A good reminder.

Thank you.
Ann T.

The Bug said...

What a tragic loss - over a motorcycle. It's just senseless - but there I go trying to make sense of our crazy world.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Bug,
I know. What is the sense in this? The only meaning I see is just all bad.

But as always, we wait for developments.

Thank you for writing in.

Ann T.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
Does it seem as if May has been a bad month for LEO deaths and injuries and incidents? We lost two fine men in Arkansas to some dude and his bad seed who had some weird authority beef just the other day...I appreciate the police so much and pray for them daily. They are not all saints, but most of them are extremely fine people of integrity.

In KCMO, when a officer starts the day, he/she tells the dispatcher they are "10-41". When the shift is complete, they tell the dispatcher they are "10-42". A lot can happen in between the 1 and the 2.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
The more stories that come out, the more this man looks like a severe loss to our community.

You are right about the saint part. It's hard to convey the admiration without getting the pedestal-kind of words out. I struggle with this limit in my language. Mostly I think of them as having resolution. The commitment so admirable in the face of the worst events and risks.

Sane words, thank you.

Ann T.