Here is a story from a woman I know. It happened in her upper-middle-class town of white and Asian professional people and their families.
One morning a housewife in the town was at home with her two children, an infant and a toddler. The baby was asleep upstairs and the toddler was playing in the living room while the mother sat across the room on the sofa, perhaps watching a television program.
Suddenly, a large black man charged through the back door of the home and surprised the woman.
The man beat up the mother, punching her several times in the kidney and leveling other serious blows. The mother remained silent, apparently so as not to alarm her child.
Then, when the mother was lying injured on the floor, the man ran up the stairs to the home's second floor and presumably searched for valuables. He did not touch the infant who was napping at the time.
Shortly later, the man came back down the stairs and beat the woman again, finally tossing her down the basement steps before leaving the home.
All of the above is known to be true because the family's nannycam (a camera typically deployed to monitor babysitters) filmed the entire event.
When the mother was able to rouse herself, she called 911. Two local officers were sent to investigate.
During their investigation, at least one of the officers made disparaging comments about predatory black men. We know this because either the nannycam or a police recording device captured the comments.
Footage from the nannycam video was released to news agencies, and the attacker was identified and charged in short order.
The attacker may have refused a plea offer or the prosecutor may have believed the case against the attacker was so strong that no plea offer was extended. In any event, a jury trial was held. The attacker had a criminal record, but not for the kind of activity described above.
At trial, the bad guy's defense attorney raised the issue of the police officer's racist comments. It seems that these comments were the only attempt to gain sympathy from the jury, which mostly likely included Hispanic or African American members, given the county's racial makeup.
The evidence was hard to ignore, however, and the man was convicted. During the sentencing hearing, the woman who had been attacked described her injuries -- internal damage and difficulty walking normally even two years later.
Her testimony must have been moving. Her facts and the video and the attacker's history, taken together, led to a life sentence for the bad guy.
Again, all of this is documentable and true.
But my friend wonders.
My friend says that people in her town heard other things, possibly from public officials who had talked with police investigators.
The most interesting thing -- which my friend cannot prove -- is that the husband of the woman who was attacked had had a disagreement with another black man. Apparently the husband contracted with the man for some kind of service and then did not pay the service provider.
The story from there is that the service provider was angry enough to recruit an acquaintance -- the large black man caught on video -- to exact revenge on the family by attacking the man's wife.
It is interesting that the nannycam video includes the man kissing his wife and toddler goodbye on the morning of the incident and that the home invasion followed very shortly afterward. This suggests that the house had been watched by the attacker and that the attacker waited until he was certain that mother and children were alone.
It is also interesting that the attacker's main goal seemed to be to injure the woman. It is unusual for criminals to break into houses for the purpose of beating up people they do not know. Although he spent time upstairs as the woman lay injured, he was not reported to have stolen any valuables, and he did not hurt either of the family's children.
Additionally, before leaving, he attacked the woman again, picking her up and tossing her down the stairs when he could just as easily have run out of the house and made his escape (unaware, as he was, that his actions were caught on film.) Robbery is bad, but I believe violent physical assault is typically regarded as a more serious crime.
It is also interesting that the family had its nannycam video operating in the morning while the mother was at home with her children. Typically those machines are set to watch nannies or au pairs. Watching long hours of a babysitter interacting with kids must be a bit tedious. One would expect a husband to trust his wife with the care of their children and not to feel required to monitor their movements while he was at work.
There have been reports of some home invasions in other parts of my friend's state, typically of South Asian families' homes where crooks seem to believe families keep large amounts of gold and/or money. The family in the case my friend described seems to be Asian, but not Indian or Pakistani.
Finally and perhaps most interesting, there has never been a home invasion robbery in my friend's town, neither before nor since the event described above. It's a one-off.
All this suggests that the thing was not random, as the case submitted to the jury seemed to imply.
If the bad guy had been recruited to commit the crime, he did not name his abettor.
If the husband's action indirectly provoked a violent retaliation, that was not revealed either.
What the attacker did was terrible, and he deserves to be in prison.
But there seems to be a strong possibility that two other men bear some responsibility. If the suppositions are true and either one of them had acted more honorably, the home invasion would not have occurred.
I tracked back and read news reports about trial reports on this case. These revealed some errors in my story.
First, the attacker had a previous conviction for home invasion.
Second, the man stole the woman's wedding rings, her husband's watch, a necklace, a cellphone and the baby monitor in her sleeping child's room. The value of these items might be useful to a burglar, but they do not explain the violence of the incident.
I'm not sure whether these additional facts alter anything in my report above.