Orange, New Jersey Detective Kieran Shields was pronounced dead on Tuesday at University Hospital in Newark. A shotgun blast, aimed from above in an ambush-style slaying, penetrated his neck and shattered his collarbone just missing the protection of his bullet-proof vest.

Badges and Bloods

Detective Shields, 32, had a cop for a father and he was a man of the community who cared about his neighbors and the victims of the crimes he investigated. He earned his Detective badge in 2004 by rescuing a missing girl who was the focus of an Amber Alert. He leaves behind a wife, two young daughters and a four-month-old son. Juan Guerra described his boyhood friend:

Throughout life you have men who plant trees so that other men can have shade. That’s what Kieran was. He planted trees and all of us got underneath them.

Detective Shields’ alleged killer is Bloods gang member Raynard “Trouble” Brown, 19, who, according to his mother, Cynthia, came home at age 11 wearing the colors of the Bloods gang. She made him take off the shirt but the impression was already made:

“He was just a frightened soul who wanted to fit in and get along. He always wanted attention.”

Badges and Bloods

This is what can happen in the urban core when the streets mold the child into a man. Trouble Brown was arrested seven times as a juvenile and spent two years in the New Jersey Training School for Boys. He was released from that Jamesburg institution the same year Kieran Shields became a Detective.

At the time of his arrest on Tuesday, Trouble Brown was out on $25,000 bail and awaiting trial on robbery and weapons possession charges from 2005. Brown’s bail is now set at $3,000,000 as he sits in jail charged with murder. Trouble leaves behind a 20-month-old daughter and a second unborn child growing in his girlfriend’s womb. Friends of Trouble Brown claim the killing was a case of mistaken identity.

Brown was being chased by another man over the last two weeks. There were gunshots fired in the neighborhood the fateful night that caused the call for help that sent Detective Shields — in plainclothes but wearing his badge — to what would become the scene of his death. As you look at these two men, you cannot help but feel the disparity in the hope of living promised in their faces.

It’s easy to hate Trouble Brown. It’s harder to understand what led him to a shotgun and fear. Orange is a 2.2 square mile city of 29,000 residents. Over the last 54 years four officers have been killed in the line of duty. Why is Orange so troubled? To comprehend the current wrath of men we must look back to the woundings of the child.

It is in the death of Detective Shields where we must begin to see the despair of lost children who later become men of affiliations and not families. We all want to belong to something greater than us. There are those who are forced to take the belonging only the streets offer for protection from violence and hunger and from opposite — but identical — others who are harder and more desperate to survive.

Some may argue Trouble Brown was dead the day he was taken over by the streets as a child; while others are left behind to wonder what might have happened if Detective Shields had met the “frightened soul” that was Trouble Brown at age 11 and gave him the shade and the protection from the streets one man can offer another simply by planting a tree instead of picking up a shotgun.


  1. A shame indeed that two souls were lost, in fact more if you include the detective’s family, Trouble’s offspring who will never really know their sperm donor father and of course Mother Cynthia who must feel that she did not fail her son but that he was taken from her by the streets. Of course this is nothing exclusive to the streets of Orange as these events play out nearly everyday across the rotting core of our inner cities. The question must be: What can be done? Some cities have shown success by clearing the battle grounds and building new ballparks, churches, retail and in some cases new housing. But where did the people of the street go? They didn’t get erased from the world during the demolition process, they move to other areas and recruit more “lost” young men who become too scared to get out and don’t know how even if they wanted to because there are not enough tree’s.

  2. Hi Rich —
    This is a difficult problem. The cycle of violence doesn’t just affect the poor. In the killing of Detective Shields you now have children — innocent children — on both sides of the realm that are now fatherless and without shade.
    That kind of vicious circle can be broken.
    When the streets win it is because of a failure of institutions. The schools, the churches, those sworn to protect us, and the other core social services that make up the values fabric of our lives.
    We create institutions to protect our shared interests and to encourage moral social behavior. I feel we do not work hard enough through those neighborhood institutions to catch and identify “lost” children until it’s too late.
    I can’t imagine a juvenile detention center currently does much of anything except harden already troubled souls.
    It’s hard work living an upstanding life where the treats of the street may be more enticing and seem like a faster path to achieve false success.
    We need to change the dynamic of the street so that it costs more, not less, to belong there than to belong to the lawful mainstream of each other.

  3. These types of stories always sadden me.
    Officers sacrifice so much to serve their communities, and some times have to give the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.
    We need to do more to educate our children, especially those in the urban core, that violence isn’t the answer to problems. We also need to instill a hope that hard work in the classroom will lead to economic self-sufficiency. We have to help people develop goals for their future.
    It’s always sad when two worlds of cops and young people collide.
    It happened recently in Chicago when a teen pulled out a BB gun — a BB gun is a real gun — and was shot by police.

    Angry about the police shooting of a 14-year-old boy, Cabrini-Green residents took the streets Tuesday, lashing out at police and the abuse they feel in increasingly affluent surroundings.
    Marchers shouted at police, threw bottles at cars and decried the shooting of Ellis Woodland, who remained in critical condition with bullet wounds in his abdomen and thigh. Police determined Tuesday that the shooting was justified.
    The unrest was as much about the public-housing residents’ feelings of being dispossessed in the gentrified Near North area of the city as it was about outrage over the shooting of Woodland, who police said brandished a BB gun that looked almost identical to a firearm. As Cabrini-Green has been dismantled amid the continuing development of luxury housing nearby, its impoverished residents feel uncertain about their futures.

    We need to improve our schools so that people are equipped to handle all of the challenges of the future. Without education, people are stuck in a death spiral of hopelessness and despair that causes many of the tragedies that play out in the urban core.

  4. Thanks for that link, Chris.
    You’re right there are no winners here and the problem of street violence is hammered home to us all in the awful death of Detective Shields.
    The police community reacted with great compassion for Detective Shield’s family. They vowed to watch over his children and make sure their education is taken care of in the future. His children become their children. The sentiment was touching and magnificent.
    I wonder if that offer would also be extended to the children of Trouble Brown?
    I realize that suggestion seems incomprehensible in light of the shooting, but wouldn’t that be one daring way to crush the circle of destruction for at least one family?
    Doesn’t violence demand an even stronger and more forceful reaction from the other side to give the advantage to doing the right thing?
    After all, Brown’s children are now fatherless — due to his unforgivable alleged action — but what of his children? Are they guilty by association? Are they also innocent victims of this shooting?
    Is the mainstream of the Orange community brave enough to step in and offer them the shade of a hand up when the human impulse and the reaction of revenge is to condemn Trouble Brown’s children in childhood and later feed them to the street as a deserved punishment for sins of their father?

  5. Hi David,
    Great points to bring up.
    We help ourselves by helping the future generations. Most crimes are committed by people under the age of 30.
    If we can help educate and give hope to the youth, we can transform the landscape of the urban core.
    Too often, it’s easy to forget about the kids — especially kids who pay the price for their parents’ sins.
    While people aren’t punished for what their parents do, the practical outcome is often the same.

  6. Hi Chris —
    I think we know Trouble Brown’s kids are going to be branded with his crimes. That’s the way of our world. We are where we came from and can rarely escape the frame of those who bred us.
    If Brown is found guilty of the murder can you imagine the day in the future Brown’s children are told their father is a cop killer? That news – no matter how softly delivered – will likely damn them forever, and if they aren’t already of the street it isn’t hard to imagine that’s where they end up when society is done ostracizing them for crimes committed before they could even walk or talk and that — to me anyway — is the ringing definition of “The Cycle of Violence” that plagues the urban core and the rest of us by extension of our disengagement from caring.

  7. Thanks for that RAND link, Chris! Incarceration obviously isn’t working or making any of us any safer.
    Building more jails only makes the rest of us goaler landlords and that is an untenable financial expenditure.

  8. Hi David,
    I wonder if we ever will have the will to try to prevent, rather than punish?
    Any prevention program will be a tough sell — both for the people paying for it and the people receiving it.
    The people paying for prevent programs will complain it’s another costly entitlement program.
    The people receiving the assistance may complain about having interference in their lives.
    Our society needs a workable prevention program, but it will probably be a long time before one is implemented.

  9. I agree we won’t see any positive forward motion concerning prevention in at least out lifetimes, Chris.
    It costs money to save people and when you can demonize your competition for the American Dream and then warehouse them in prisons later — it’s an investment in yourself and you own sanctity that you can justify.

  10. David, I know of a young man who was sent to the detention center in Kearney at age 16 and released as a seasoned criminal at age 18 (mandantory) who within 36 months was serving 10-20 in Lincoln, The “system” didn’t fix him, it made him more criminal and his first out of wedlock child is now in trouble with the law. They live in Fremont which is not your typical breeding ground for gangs etc. The education ideas are supported but look at how many educators get burned out trying to help those that don’t want help or are pressured to resist it. I am in no way saying that I have the answers and as stated we will not see any positive forward motion in our lifetimes. It’s too bad that we as a country try to “fix” the world’s problems but can’t address our own. I just had a thought, Joe Liberman was defeated (in part) by an onslought of internet verbage spewed by the anti-war folks. Perhaps with your vast resources you could start an internet campaign to clean up the streets. The Boles Foundation??

  11. Hi Rich —
    Your example is good. Kearney is a tough place end up and I can’t imagine any young man feeling a part of society on his way out.
    I think discussing these issues is important. Finding solutions is harder because people have to commit their time and money to making it work.
    I don’t know how to go about making the changes we have discussed here so far, but I’m happy to be a part of the process to start to find some answers put into action.
    Let me know what steps you think we can proactively initiate here and make them work in the urban core and beyond.

  12. I understand your point, but this example just doesn’t prove your case for me. I read the linked article twice and it seems that Raynard Brown’s family tried to do a lot for this young man when he was a child. People make their own choices in life, and one must take responsibility for those choices. Since he brought one child into the world, and a second on the way, he is responsible for the choices he makes that affects them also.

  13. Do you think an eleven year-old should be making his own choices in life, Antoinette?
    The day he came wearing the gang colors at age 11, there should have been drastic, earth-shattering changes made in the young man’s life even to the point of affecting the comfort of the family.
    To counter that kind of enticement you must bristle your back and fight back with every drop of blood left in your body because once the colors go on it is rare they ever come off even if the shirt isn’t being worn and that, to me anyway, is a parent’s job. You go down fighting for your children. Your life becomes re-purposed to their well-being and action must be pressed over reaction.

  14. Brown wasn’t 11 when he gunned a man down. He wasn’t 11 when he brought more life into this world.
    If you were to implement the idea of surrounding youth with other positive influences, you are still asking them at 11 or whatever young age to make a decision between what they know and live, and what could be.
    The family was working-class. They tried to get him involved in many activities; they sent him to other schools. Are those things free and easy in NJ? And transport to and from? What is that family to do? Sacrifice their other two children for this one? And where are they to go? Is there any urban area without affiliates of the Bloods or Crips or Latin Kings, or home-grown versions?

  15. His road to destruction started at 11, Antoinette.
    It seems like you are arguing in support of the “theory of the bad seed” in that some children are born guilty and deserve to be thrown away to the street as their manifest destiny.
    If you do not believe children are born guilty then how would you have resolved the problem of a young Trouble Brown at age 11 when nothing his family tried subsequently worked? Would you just accept what happened as part of his personality and being now that you know the end result of that behavior 8 years later allegedly ends in the muzzle flash of a shotgun aimed at an officer’s neck?
    What is your solution for Trouble Brown’s children? Are they guilty by association? Who do you think should claim them as their own beyond the immediate family?
    Do you believe children belong only to those who created them?

  16. I was reading some of the comments and u said how are RAYNARDS kids going to feel when they find out there father was a cop killer??? Well I am from that area and Thank God I escaped. BUt what I was goin to say is No one cares about cop killers they are more praised then anything else in that enviroment. The police, believe me do thier part in destroying the streets. No one hears about it though because who is going to believe a gang member that claims the police beat him, shot him and left him for dead?? Well the people in the ghetto believe it because we have seen it first hand.

  17. not that I believe it is right for anyone to kill anyone. BUT you do not live in that enviroment so you can really not judge on what goes on.

  18. David I took this quote from you “It’s hard work living an upstanding life where the treats of the street may be more enticing and seem like a faster path to achieve false success”
    Some kids are not looking at the treats of the street, they are looking for just daily survival. I believe people tend to go towards criminal activity because they have NO CHOICE. When you have a child and the only job you can get is paying $7 a hour how can you possibly take care of yourself? or anyone else? Like Tupac says it is a set up. I truely believe that. They system is set up to have urban area people fair. They make it almost impossible to escape that life. The goverment is caking off the drugs and caking off the people when they are brought to jail. Life is hard. Just imagine bustin your *ss for $7/hr and still can’t feed yourself and pay rent??? think about it? How long until you ventured out to the life of crime.
    [Comment edited by David W. Boles for content.]

  19. I understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from, jersey. We talk about these issues of the street a lot here on this blog.
    I had to edit your last comment because you used a word that can get the content of this blog flagged as inappropriate so keep it super-clean, okay, even if doesn’t seem like it makes a lot sense.
    My post today about “Infant Criminals” might be of interest to you — just remember we’re exploring ideas here and taking sides just to argue them to see where and how they lead us to new thinking.
    We’re looking for creative solutions to lots of problems here and if you have any thoughts you like to share and engage that would be great!

  20. this is truly sad…im from tha area and police in essex county and surrounding countys are known to beat, harass and rob african americans especially if u seem “suspicious” which means are walkin around period…but neither one of them deserved what happened.police need to start having better protocal and check and balance systems because they half ass do their jobs which leads to only more criminal activity. that summer only a few weeks before that incident a young girl from my town next to orange was killed along with her boyfriends grandmother and burnt up inside a house by crips,then the crips shot at tha girls wake… and 2 weeks before that there was another murder..honestly police need better training and there needs to be a system better ensuring that..

  21. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, Dinero, and thank you for sharing your real-life experience. I agree there are no winners when it comes to violence in the urban core.

  22. it aint about the streets or the gangs its about one mans dicisions and about one childs loss it aint never gonna stop untill all are either in prison for life or dead i spent 39 years in the hardest prison ever made by the U.S governement i know everything there is to know about what goes on in our treets kids these days love gangs simply becouse thier promised money/cars/women and most of all power they dont know anything beyond that becouse thier to bussy living out thier fantasies but then along the lives of so many children they end up just like thier makers in prison for life or worse on death row i never saw beyond money and women but beeing in prison for 39 years you have alot to think for cos by the time you think straight its already to late we’re living in a world full of gangs and full of violence even a child who is loved so much becomes a criminal so there is only one thing to do banned gangs from society you join a gang you go to jail we should make gangs outlawed gangs should be like selling drugs a crime! but instead our society allows these gangsters to form and to roam the streets so untill this world wakes up things like this will never stop from happening i was once a gangster from east side bounty hunters but now i realise you dont need gangs or a gun to be a man in this world!

  23. to be brutally honest things wont get better.first of all,this place is so evil,people would stab their their own brother for that almighty dollar.second, in order for us to change completely we have to recognize who is after us and we have to stay away from the way of this world,but as as the bible states the whole world is lying in the hands of the wicked one.its such a sad thing that this had to happen and continues to go on.not to bash the the mother,but i agree with david,the minute he walked in the house with those colors on discipline should have token he went to prison to see what prison life is like or hear it from somebody who lived that life.when its taken lightly or not soon enough you end having a situation like this.

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