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The GW Hatchet


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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Column: Students should support family of homicide victim, not laugh at escaped suspect

We should take violent crime seriously, and do what we can to help.

Updated: Sept. 14, 2023, at 11:53 a.m.

Last Wednesday, the GW community received a shelter-in-place order after a murder suspect escaped police custody at GW Hospital. Christopher Haynes, accused of murdering Brent Hayward last month, broke free as two police officers attempted to cuff him to a gurney. While many students voiced light-hearted views of Haynes’ public escape, his alleged homicide leaves behind a grieving mother and two brothers.

The student body widely discussed Haynes’ escape in person and via social media by making light-hearted quips and creating memes about the investigation. A photo of an officer carrying what is believed to be one of Haynes’ shoes was circulated on Instagram, captioned: “They got the shoe.” Students likened the situation to Cinderella.

Humor is a natural coping response when faced with unprecedented or overwhelming situations, but it is important to give ourselves a reality check and remember that individuals are severely impacted by violent crimes like murder.

As the investigation played out as a comedic spectacle on campus, Hayward’s mother and two brothers are living in a state of grief and terror. DCNewsNow interviewed a friend of Hayward’s mother, Terra Baiss, who told the outlet that Hayward’s family is so upset they can’t eat. In a separate interview with WUSA9, Baiss revealed Hayward’s mother is crying constantly, cannot speak about her son’s death without stuttering and is too frightened to leave her home with Haynes still on the loose.

Baiss said the Haywards live in the same apartment complex as Haynes and his girlfriend, and Hayward’s mom is terrified of her and her children’s immediate proximity to Haynes’ residence. Hayward’s mother is desperate to move to a new apartment but is unable to afford movers. No one should be forced to live near the residence of their son’s alleged killer, and finances should not prevent Hayward’s family from finding physical or emotional safety.

The story of Haynes’ escape is similar to a situation currently unfolding in Philadelphia. Danelo Cavalcante, convicted of brutally murdering his girlfriend Deborah Brandão in front of her two children in 2021, escaped from Chester County Prison on Aug. 31. Cavalcante evaded capture for nearly two weeks and was found by authorities Wednesday morning. Deborah’s sister, Sarah Brandão, told CNN that Deborah brought her children to the United States from Brazil to try to offer them a better quality of life. The sister took in Deborah’s children and also expressed living in constant terror since Cavalcante’s escape.

The impact of violent crime and the societal injustice that works against victims and their families makes it clear that Hayward’s murder is no joke. His family is in need of help, and GW students can use their connection to the case to make a real difference.

Baiss set up a GoFundMe to assist Hayward’s mother in her goal to move out of her apartment complex. But the GoFundMe has only raised $144 out of its $20,000 goal since Thursday. Every GW student who is able to donate to the page should do so. Those who can’t should use their social media to do more than joke about the situation, like raising awareness about Hayward and his family’s needs.

Hayward’s brother, Shannon Gilliam, told FOX5 that Hayward was a good and selfless individual. His family simply needs more money to move away from Haynes’ apartment and does not deserve to be trapped in a terrifying situation because of financial barriers. We should take this violent crime seriously and do what we can to help.

Chloe Werner, a sophomore majoring in political science, is an opinions writer.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this article mistakenly used Haynes’ name once when Hayward’s name should have been used. We regret this error.

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