boy shoots and kills self and then surrenders!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

“Boy, 4, ac­ci­den­tally shot self; sus­pect surrenders”

WHAT THE HUH?!? The head­line above is from to­day’s Seattle Times (July 23, 2013). It ap­pears in the upper right corner in a banner across the top of the front page. This terse line (six words and a number) tells us—what? That a boy shot and killed him­self and then turned him­self over to the police”

Let’s try again: The first five words tell us that a 4-year old boy shot him­self, but accidentally.

Okay. I got that.

The last two words tells us that the sus­pect in the shooting has sur­ren­dered him­self. What? As the wound was self-inflicted, the 4-year old boy is the only pos­sible suspect.



Based solely an these seven words, I as­sume that, since the suspect—who is the victim, the boy—surrendered, then the wound could not have been fatal.

Again, okay. I got that.

So, then we turn to page B1 and the headline—and this time it is the second sec­tion’s main headline—now says in HUGE type:

“Sus­pect sur­ren­ders; boy ac­ci­den­tally shot himself.”

This is a re­it­er­a­tion of the front page with the order of the two phrases (sic) turned around.

Um, just how did he surrender?

So what does the ac­tual story tell us? Well, the boy did, in fact, shoot him­self in the head with a handgun. But he is, in fact, dead. (Head wounds tend in that di­rec­tion.) So, then, how did he sur­render? Well, when the po­lice ar­rived, they de­ter­mined that the wound was self-inflicted.

After a “cur­sory ex­am­i­na­tion” by the Coro­ner’s of­fice, the wound was deemed a pos­sible homi­cide. Hence, now we have a victim and a sus­pect, the latter being a 25-year old man, re­cently re­leased after a felony drug con­vic­tion, ap­par­ently the owner of the gun.

His re­la­tion­ship to the boy is not explained.

To his credit, the felon did sur­render “peace­fully” while the po­lice were under the re­vised im­pres­sion that it had been a pos­sible homi­cide. As a felon, he was barred from owning a gun, so charges against him may be filed. Need­less to say, that will do nothing for the boy and his family.

(Nor is it likely to cost the ed­itor re­spon­sible for the gram­mat­i­cally incorrect—indeed, the al­most baffling—headline to lose any­thing more than per­haps a wee bit of pride when he is teased about it by fellow newspapermen.)

How could this gram­mat­ical boehner (I mean, “boner”) have been avoided? Easily—just drop “self” from the line and it reads ac­cu­rately (for the story):

Boy, 4, ac­ci­den­tally shot; sus­pect sur­ren­ders.”

Even better—and more accurate—would have been, “Boy, 4, shot and killed; sus­pect sur­ren­ders.” Of course, had the head­line been written cor­rectly, I would not have any­thing to post into my “Strunk­and­whiten It” cat­e­gory today . . .


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i simply thought the boy lived in par­allel uni­verses, in which case the head­line could be correct!

un­par­al­leled ar­ticle to hit the sack over i when only pleases book­mark it too

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