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Too Close to Home

Opinion Editor Ellie Segura writes about the recent spate of violence in Brea, and the national epidemic of gun violence.
Nathaniel Huerta
The shooting at the Raintree Apartment Complex on Aug. 30 is just one of several recent local incidents involving armed crime. These crimes are not an anomaly — they’re reflective of a national crisis of gun violence.

In even the quietest corners of America’s small towns, where life is generally serene and idyllic, tragedy — like the Aug. 30 fatal shooting at Brea’s Raintree apartment complex — can strike with unexpected force. 

It is easy to feel unaffected by gun violence as we often only witness it from afar, on TV or social media. However, our community is not exempt from this pervasive threat. Last month, for the tenants of Brea’s Raintree apartments, the boom of gunfire and shrill wail of police sirens were alarmingly real.

On Aug. 30, witnesses heard gunfire coming from an apartment at 650 North Tamarack Ave. Brea resident Logan Kahmar, 21, had been shot dead on the premises, and Sidney Bararchie Clarke, 28, was detained by the Brea Police Department as a murder suspect.

This devastating incident may appear as an isolated incident due to Brea’s reputation as quiet and heavily policed, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

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According to the Brea Police Department, there have been 1,781 Group A offenses — crimes against persons, property, and society — committed this year through June of 2023. While not all Group A offenses are directly correlated to gun violence, many violent crimes — like a Dec. 22, 2022 robbery in the Brea Mall parking lot — were committed with firearms.

The rise in gun violence is an ongoing national issue. From 2020 and 2021, firearm-related incidents were the primary cause of death for children aged 1 to 17, which reveals a troubling trend — the child firearm mortality rate has doubled since 2013. With some of the weakest gun laws of any comparable nation, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than people in other high-income countries, like France and Canada.

For children and teenagers alike, the plague of gun violence has resulted in a hyperconsciousness of the issue, particularly in classrooms. From annual lockdown drills to too-frequent stories about school shootings in the news, gun violence has become a fixture in every student’s mind.

Even in Brea.

Last March, 1,111 absences were recorded at BOHS after a student posted an anonymous shooting threat against the high school on Instagram. The threat was swiftly addressed by administrators and Brea PD, who stationed officers on campus for the day. Although the threat was not carried out, the potential for violence resulted in 70 percent of BOHS’s students staying home. This incident underscores how students and their families are acutely aware of the harsh reality of school shootings and the unsettling possibility that they could become victims of the gun violence that frequently makes headlines.

Gun violence in Brea cannot continue to be treated like an anomaly, like it’s something that only happens elsewhere, in other community’s schools, malls, neighborhoods, and apartment complexes.

This issue of gun violence is not only a problem nationally and in America’s schools, but also a growing problem in the Brea community.

On June 11, a string of armed robberies across several 7-Eleven locations throughout Southern California left two dead and three others wounded. One victim of the violent robberies was 40-year-old store clerk Matthew Hirsch, who was killed at the Brea location on Lambert Road and N. Brea Boulevard.

Not even two weeks later, on July 27, a robbery occurred at the Chase Bank on State College Blvd. While no one was killed during the incident, the perpetrator, armed with a pellet gun, shot a woman in the shoulder while stealing her purse.

The following day, on July 28, a group of armed individuals robbed the Wells Fargo Bank in Brea, which led to a police chase that ended with the criminal’s arrests in Anaheim. 

And just three week ago, on Sep. 5, four people were arrested for grand theft at the Macy’s in Brea Mall. Shortly after Brea PD received a call about another armed robbery at Wells Fargo (a ploy by the robbers to tie up police resources), the suspects led officers in a high-speed chase along Randolph Ave. and Birch Street. They were later found near Laurel Elementary School, resulting in the school’s lockdown and hundreds of panicked children, their parents, and Laurel staff. 

This proximity of gun violence is chilling and represents a troubling pattern that increasingly afflicts our community.

There are efforts to stem the tide of violence in California. Recently, California became the first state in the nation to call for a Constitutional Convention for gun safety, which would enact several gun safety measures into law, including raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21; mandating universal background checks; instituting a waiting period for all gun purchases; and banning the sale of assault weapons to civilians.

But in the meantime, with the U.S. grappling with historically high levels of gun violence, it is critical that we continue to advocate for stricter gun control. Gun violence in Brea cannot continue to be treated like an anomaly, like it’s something that only happens elsewhere, in other community’s schools, malls, neighborhoods, and apartment complexes.

This story was originally published on The Wildcat on September 22, 2023.