A Good Kid Shot Because He's Black?

Merritt Landry (Facebook)
Merritt Landry (Facebook)

In a poignant piece for Salon magazine, New Orleans teacher Kate Selker wonders whether racial profiling led to the shooting of one of her students. Police say that Marshall Coulter was shot in the head by neighbor Merritt Landry — who's been charged with attempted second-degree murder — while climbing Landry's fence.

A few months before he was shot in the head, Marshall Coulter passed me in the hallway.

“Ms. Selker! Remember how otters hold hands when they sleep?”

Of course I did. I was the one who had told him about otters, one afternoon in the fall. I’d run into him after class and noticed he looked upset — school wasn’t always easy for Marshall. So I showed him a silly photo a friend had emailed me — two sea otters floating with their tiny paws interlocked. If you’ve never Googled “otters holding hands,” you should; it’s pretty irresistible. They do it so they don’t float away in the waves while they sleep. It’s how they stay safe at night.

Marshall loved the photo, and his anger thawed. He’d been fist-clenched and tight-lipped before, but he went on his way smiling. Later, he’d remind me about the otters, whenever he thought I looked tired or sad. He could be a challenging kid, but he noticed things like that.

And then, in July, he was shot. Unarmed, just a few blocks from home. He remains in critical condition.

The man who shot him, Merritt Landry, says he was afraid Marshall was going to break into his home. According to our local paper, the Times-Picayune, the police declared Marshall was not “an imminent threat” of any kind. The article draws a parallel to Trayvon Martin’s case, not simply because the victims were young and black, but also because Landry is arguing innocence for more or less “standing his ground.” But Marshall’s situation is unlikely to generate the outrage of Trayvon.


Read Kate Selker's entire piece at Salon magazine.

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