On the afternoon of Sept. 16, two weeks after the start of the new school year, Oceanside High School senior Khaseen Morris was brutally murdered in what appears to have been an ambush by a group of a half-dozen other teenagers. A stab wound to the heart killed him.
Two days later, Nassau County police arrested 18-year-old Tyler Flach, a wannabe rapper from Lido Beach. He was charged with second-degree murder.
It’s unclear what, precisely, the motive for the attack was. Police said the fight broke out over a girl with whom Morris was seen walking.
Our sincerest condolences go out to the Morris family. No one would expect such a brawl to erupt in an Oceanside strip mall, or that anyone would end up dead. But it happened. Now students at Oceanside High, which Morris had recently transferred to, are in mourning. So are his longtime friends at Freeport High School, from which he had transferred.
Soon after the attack, police reported that teenagers stood by and recorded the attack rather than help Morris. A number of media outlets, including respected national newspapers, picked up on that narrative, and that rapidly became their very sensational story.
Now we are hearing a different narrative from Dr. Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of the Oceanside School District. Several teenagers at the mall that day did, in fact, run into local businesses to ask for help and call 911. After the emergency line jammed up, one teen ran to the local fire department to seek aid, she said. Others grabbed paper towels in a vain attempt to stop Morris from bleeding out.
It is too easy to see this story as one of uncaring teens, addicted to their phones, doing nothing to assist a fellow student as he lay dying. As Harrington reports, that was not the case.
Yes, there were those who videoed the fight, including the moment when Morris, covered in his own blood, stumbled and collapsed on the sidewalk. Yes, there were those who stood by during the two minutes that police took to reach the scene after the 911 calls.
We mustn’t forget this reality, though: The reported 30 to 50 teens who were in the parking lot of that strip mall that day witnessed, at too young an age, a murder. We can only begin to imagine their shock and horror.
The strip mall, only a half-mile from Oceanside High, is a popular after-school hangout. Many teens probably came for a slice of pizza when class let out. Others may have come looking for a fight. Either way, they need all of us, media outlets included, to act like adults and understand that they’re likely scared and reeling from the tragedy that unfolded that day.
What they need is counseling, not condemnation.