by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
November 1, 2004
A BLAZE OF HUMANITY AMID THE MACHINES
BRADENTON, Fla. -- We were at the end of 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Martha's Roman Catholic Church in Sarasota, a few miles from home, when the sound of squealing brakes and a distinct thump! shocked the congregation to silence. Just seconds later a man ran into the crowded church, calling for someone to dial 911. "A woman has been hit crossing the street!" he shouted.
Behind me in the last pew, Democratic candidate for Sheriff of Manatee County Kevin Murphy was kneeling as the man raced into church. He quickly led a group of parishioners outside through the side door, and I went through the front to the crosswalk, where I stopped traffic so that help could cross the busy Fruitville Road to help the lady sprawled all alone on the other side of the street.
Kevin, a friend of mine from church and someone whom I was proud to endorse last week, was the first to her side. Quietly issuing orders and providing comfort and consolation at the same time, he quickly assumed control and won the respect of others anxious to help.
It was almost providential, I thought, that I had been playing around with my quirky Quantum 3.2 Digital Dream camera, one I'd bought on the Internet a year ago but which had been producing unfocused pictures until earlier that day.
It turned out my problem was that I had switched the camera to close-up mode, meaning I could only take pictures within three feet or so. I pulled it out of my pocket and began taking shots, aware that the woman would want them, the distraught driver would want them, their lawyers and insurance companies would want them, and even the media might want to see them.
As the woman moaned on the street, Kevin Murphy's long law enforcement training took over. He knew what to do and communicated it well. It reminded me of the countless times in Hollywood I had seen someone shot or stabbed and lying helpless on the ground. Each time, it seemed to take forever for the police to arrive. Once, there was even a shooting of four men across the street from an LAPD motorcycle officer named Roy Rogers who couldn't be bothered to look up from writing a ticket and wonder about the gunfire and the people falling dead on the street. But here, for once, law enforcement was there when it was needed.
Kevin is the last to blow his own horn. He is in an uphill race against a guy who has had a lot of well-publicized brushes with corruption and owns everything but an honest face. Ironically, he was one of two sheriffs - the other from nearby Sarasota County - who was with President George Bush just 45 minutes before the first plane hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells had a group of his narcotics officers arrested for a variety of charges, and then apparently was tried to mount surveillance on the Asst. U.S. Attorney, Jeffrey Del Fuoco of Tampa, who was prosecuting the men. He's part of a real group the Sarasota Herald Tribune calls "The Good Ol' Boys Club."
Kevin has charged that Wells is corrupt and costs the county millions of dollars a year in unnecessary costs for frills and luxuries. The news media has paid some attention, but they seem entrained in the Reublican machine, for better or worse. So it was refreshing and inspirational when a blaze of humanity suddenly came shining through the night on Fruitville Road. Kevin Murphy is the kind of candidate our communities deserve but so rarely get to elect. Perhaps a bit of Providence for once can change that.