See how this headline from the New York Daily News strikes you:
Slain Mississippi sheriff’s deputy remembered as ‘child of God’ who once baptized a man
Serious question: Is the fact that someone who used to work in ministry "once baptized a man" really headline worthy upon his death? Or is this the kind of headline (and lede, since it's repeated there) you could find only in the Big Apple?
Note to the Daily News' editors: Given the deputy's background, there's a good chance that he baptized more than one man. Believe it or not, baptism is actually a relatively common occurrence in churches.
(P.S. Note to readers: Yes, I know I'm talking about a tabloid whose cover story today — like its competitor the New York Post — is "DUI of the Tiger.")
At this point, a few readers may be wondering exactly how I ended up on the New York Daily News website. After all, it's not a paper that I have bookmarked.
Well, it all started with a tweet from The Associated Press about the Mississippi shooting rampage:
In case you missed it over the long Memorial Day weekend, this tearjerker of a summary from AP provides the basic background:
BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (AP) — It was after midnight when a gunman burst into the living room of a southern Mississippi home where young people were playing video games.
Caleb Edwards, 15, said the man — whom he knows as Corey Godbolt — demanded to know where his cousin’s parents where. Jordan Blackwell, 18, said they were gone to another town.
At that, Godbolt “just started shooting,” Caleb said.
As people scrambled to hide inside the Brookhaven home, Blackwell used his own body to shield his cousin Caleb from the gunfire.
With his mother standing by his side Monday, Caleb spoke calmly as he recounted to The Associated Press how he felt the force of the impact as Blackwell was shot Sunday.
“He loved me enough to take some bullets for me,” Caleb said.
Caleb’s 11-year-old brother, Austin Edwards, was also shot to death in that living room early Sunday. They were among the eight people killed in three houses in a rampage that started late Saturday after law enforcement officers were called about a domestic dispute. A deputy sheriff was among those killed. The other seven were all relatives or acquaintances of the accused shooter.
While I was not following the story closely, the AP tweet caught my attention. It noted that the slain deputy's colleagues remembered him as "a man of 'top notch' character."
I wondered if that character might have had something to do with his faith.
As it turns out, it did — and to its credit, AP did not shy away from that fact:
The deputy, William Durr, had worked in Christian ministry before going into law enforcement, and liked doing puppet shows to deliver uplifting messages to children. Durr was married and had an 11-year-old son. His mother spoke briefly with the AP on Monday, saying that the family is still in distress.
“He was a good Christian man,” Debbie Durr said at her rural home near Brookhaven. “He was a youth minister and a pastor before going into law enforcement.”
The wire service also included another compelling religious detail in its report:
More than a dozen people stood in the driveway of Edwards’ and Blackwell’s grandparents Monday afternoon and joined hands for prayer.
“We need you, oh God, to be with this family in their grief,” said Richard Thomas, pastor of New Home Church of Christ Holiness.
In a CBS News report, I noticed this:
The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department has about 75 employees and is like a close-knit family, said Zach Harveston, who has worked as a dispatcher there for two years. Harveston said he was shaken by Durr's death.
"He loved to lead children to the good Lord," Harveston said. "He was just a natural-born servant of the good Lord here at the department and even in the church he served in."
More Googling took me to the New York Daily News story and the headline that I highlighted above.
Nitpicking aside, the Daily News deserves credit — as do AP and others — for exploring the slain deputy's faith. It's an important element of the story.