Bertha Arriaga, Davell Gardner Jr., and Ethan Williams were killed by “stray bullets.” Than Than Htwe, Nicolo Rappa and Tessa Majors were killed in “botched robberies.” As violent crime has soared, such language has become ubiquitous in news stories. It is lazily inaccurate — and absolves killers of responsibility.
Gotham shootings have more than doubled in two years, to more than four people wounded and one killed a day. In tandem, the term “stray bullet” has, er, strayed into more news reports. The New York Times has used it 42 times since January 2020, nearly double the 24 mentions in the similar period pre-COVID.
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