Response to U.U. World Article
This letter is a response to the March 2002 Unitarian Universalist World Magazine article about the killing of Woody, written by a former Unitarian Universalist church member and friend of Woody.
First, the article fails to mention that Woody entered the church pleading for sanctuary. *Sanctuary* is a formal, age-old concept, which the UU Church (as Woody through his work as an activist in the 80s was aware) employed in their efforts to support Liberation Theologians in war torn Central America. The fact that Woody asked for sanctuary is significant, and puts his entry into the church building into a context other than just random violation of the sanctuary.
It's not entirely true (and quite patronizing) to say that Woody "wasn't making any sense" as Butterfield asserts. He was actually talking about global warming and political assassination. Not pink elephants dancing with parasols. He was crazed- but no one is sure, because he was killed, exactly why. There is an eyewitness account from his neighbors that the FBI confronted Woody at his house the night before. We don't know what might have happened to him that morning, on his way to meditate in Northampton. We do know that "the patriot act" is certainly causing some stepped-up interactions between the feds and "suspicious" people. There is a lot we don't know. But, I think it is unfortunate that the article does not mention that Woody was talking, not only about his own fears for himself, but also about his fears for the planet, and asking for political sanctuary. It really puts it in a different context when you consider it that way, and it's a glaring omission in my opinion.
I do appreciate that the article does state that Woody did not threaten anyone but himself. This is true by all accounts. Though I wonder why they used the word "directly."
It's not true that Woody received medical attention immediately. He was handcuffed after he was shot seven times, with his elbow shattered, and EMT workers were delayed outside for some medically substantial period of time. A doctor was in fact in the room, but she had no equipment with her, and was forced to wait until he was handcuffed, and then to attempt to treat him with the cuffs on.
It's true he was unmarried and had no children. It's also true that some 300-400 people attended services for him. (not including the big public one in Brattleboro which was also well attended- these hundreds were his FRIENDS and family.) It might be appropriate to mention this, if they are going describe him as a sort of loner.
Again, there might be "no indication" why he drove to All Souls- or there might be, if the World would be willing to discuss the concept of sanctuary, or to discover that Woody had many close friends who were Unitarians.
They displayed a picture of all these cards and origami cranes, but not even a tiny picture of Woody. A man died in that church! They talk about replacing the rug. As if it was arson or something, where only the building and the feelings of the congregation were damaged. To some, this may seem perfectly appropriate, but to me, in the absence of any human portrayal of the victim, or a fair representation of his plea, it strikes me as callous.
They write: "Another challenge has been that friends of Woodward consider him to be gentle and loving, but that is not what church members witnessed." Why is that a challenge? Is it because it interferes with an attempt to dehumanize Woody and portray him of deserving to be killed?
It is patently untrue, by several eyewitness accounts that Woody "would not relinquish" the weapon. It's also untrue, Mero's assertion that "and will not let you calm him-do you not call the police? It was a no-win situation. We couldn't have done anything differently. We had people in our congregation, in that room, who were mental health professionals and they were unable to calm him." In fact, several of the people who stayed, and later gave eyewitness testimony to journalists of the Hartford Courant, were able to calm Woody, had him seated, with the knife in his pocket, and even heard him say "I'm sorry" when he was told he had frightened people. In point of fact, Deborah Mero left the room and did not witness either this calming, or the subsequent bursting in of the cops, who shot Woody within a couple of minutes of entering the room.
What I don't understand is: Yes, Mero and Butterfield did not shoot Woody. The cops did. Why can't they say "We called the cops because we felt it was the right thing to do. The cops did the wrong thing. We don't stand behind their shooting a man in the sanctuary with so shockingly little provocation.