Atlanta: Nowhere To Hide

Ashley Smith, the former hostage who helped capture Atlanta courthouse gunman Brian Nichols, has been thanked again – this time with more than $70,000 in reward money. And there are other, more lucrative deals, in the works.

Good for her. She saved lives. People are rewarded handsomely all the time in this society for contributing nothing more than bad role-modeling.

As to the city of Atlanta, it got off cheap.

It contributed all of $5,000 of the $70,000 awarded Smith. For relative chump change, it had what remained of its reputational bacon saved by someone who actually showed some presence of mind.

Now to anyone familiar with the race-based, image-conscious inner workings of Atlanta, the whole Keystone Kops scenario – from pseudo security to manhunt mayhem – was no shock. What was truly different, however, was that the unnecessary, unconscionable and tragic deaths of a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff’s deputy and a federal agent couldn’t be covered up in the finest tradition of skewed Atlanta crime statistics.

The world watched this one. We all knew who did it – and it wasn’t Richard Jewell or Ray Lewis.

Atlanta, long a siren song to the black middle class, has too long skated on its well-marketed, Andy Young-proclaimed renown as “The city that’s too busy to hate.”

Well, if Atlanta were ever actually too busy to hate, it would have been because it was preoccupied cooking the books on crime. But here were four murders – three downtown and one in Buckhead – that couldn’t be concealed from convention planners, Super Bowl task forces and Southeastern Conference basketball tournament officials.

And had it not been for Ashley Smith, a widowed waitress from a nearby suburb, Nichols might still be on the lam.

But at least Wayne Williams remains behind bars. Last we heard.

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