Brendan Tevlin lived in Livingston, NJ, went to Seton Hall Preparatory School for high school, had three younger siblings, and recently finished his first year at the University of Richmond. He was a great kid, in every sense of the word; his motto in life was “good vibes and easy living.” His sister goes to Mount Saint Dominic Academy, my alma mater, and she is a year younger than me. I met Brendan several times throughout high school, though we weren’t close. Have you heard about Brendan or the Tevlin family? My guess is no. On June 25th, Brendan was in West Orange, NJ (the town I’m from) playing video games with his friends. He was driving home when he was gunned down by Ali Muhammad Brown, who shot him 10 times, and then left his body in his car at an apartment building not even 5 minutes from my house.
As word spread about Brendan the next day, our community was shocked. No one could understand who would do this to a guy like Brendan, or why. Our questions were answered weeks later when the police caught Brown, who had also murdered three other men. Brown described Brendan’s murder as a “just kill” and said it was an act of “vengeance” meant to compensate for U.S. military killings in the Middle East. In a small town in New Jersey that most people have never heard of, an act of domestic terrorism took place. And no one knows about it.
Though I now know Brown’s reasoning behind killing Brendan, I still don’t completely understand it. I still ask why he did it, why he wanted to make Brendan his target. The Melian Dialogue by Thuycdides tells us that the reasons we fight are fear, honor, and interest; but I don’t feel that this is true of all violence. Perhaps they are when it comes to countries fighting one another, but not in a situation like this. Brown killed Brendan because he was an easy target, someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Violence such as this happens because people are angry and want to be heard, and/or because they want revenge. The lack of media coverage has prevented Brown from being heard, but he certainly got revenge.
The response to this revenge from our community has been incredible. We’ve sold bracelets, t-shirts, and held a lacrosse festival in honor of Brendan. This reaction has made me think about Brendan’s motto of, “good vibes and easy living,” which we are trying to follow. Yes, this was awful. No, Brendan did not deserve this. But that doesn’t mean that we have to follow the saying “violence begets violence,” like Brown did. Even without violence, our response links more to fear, honor, and interest than I think Brown’s actions do. We want recognition and awareness of what happened, but most importantly, we want people to know what an amazing person Brendan was.
We are scared that if this could happen to Brendan in our little New Jersey town, it could happen to anyone. I know that I’m afraid that because this isn’t being talked about on the news as much as I think it should be, someone else is in danger. In fact, when word broke about Brendan’s death, police used the word “targeted,” which made most people assume Brendan was involved in something unsavory; they did this to make the community feel at ease. Brown was hiding in the woods right next to where he killed Brendan, and I often think about driving down the same road Brendan was on and how foolish I was to feel like I had nothing to worry about. We want Brendan to be recognized and honored for the hero he is. And we obviously hold interest in this: Brendan was a beloved son, brother, and friend.
This is a blog run in memory of Brendan by the Tevlins. I highly suggest you check it out. Remember: spread the good vibes only.