Applauding a brutal murder on our watch? Is this us?

Inmate accused of killing cellmate talks from Tarrant County jail

David Faustino Flores, 42, who is accused of fatally beating Clinton Don Simpson, 76, on Nov. 7, spoke to reporters from jail on Wednesday.
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David Faustino Flores, 42, who is accused of fatally beating Clinton Don Simpson, 76, on Nov. 7, spoke to reporters from jail on Wednesday.

As most of Fort Worth sought shelter from the frigid wind Tuesday night, a homeless man apparently built a fire to stay warm behind a shopping center — and died, having been burned by the blaze he hoped would keep him alive.

And on our watch. He may have been homeless, but was he also without a community?

Meanwhile, an infinitely less sympathetic figure — accused child molester Clinton Don Simpson — was beaten to death Nov. 7, allegedly by a cellmate in the local jail’s medical unit. Both men were under suicide watch.

And, again, it happened on our watch — however loathed he was, however abhorrent and abominable the charges against him: molesting a dozen children over the years at “Mr. Don’s Whistle Stop,” a miniature train ride in Simpson’s backyard in Keller.

Few will shed a tear for one who’s believed to have preyed upon society’s most vulnerable. Such crimes are among the most repulsive imaginable.

But neither sympathy nor empathy is required to stand up for life, especially that which is in a community’s collective hands. There is no return to decency through savagery returned. As a society, we had an obligation to keep this man alive to face the potent justice he so thoroughly deserved if found guilty — instead of a savage beating at the paws of either a vigilante or a madman.

Questions are being asked of those whom we’ve tasked with protecting both victims and perpetrators. How in the world could a man such as David Faustino Flores — who his brother says suffers from schizophrenia and hallucinations, and who himself warned jail officials about it — be put in a cell with a wheelchair-bound accused child molester who was supposedly being housed for his own protection?

In a moment of remarkable lucidity and candor during an interview with Star-Telegram reporters, Flores acknowledged his deep paranoia, and even his regret when learning Simpson had died. “I thought this whole place was ISIS,” Flores said.

Not that it matters to some, but the beating was among the most ferocious you’ll ever hear about. According to a sheriff’s report: 20 blows to the head; after a pause and a bit of movement from Simpson, another six strikes; then 28 more with a double fist as Simpson sagged out of his wheelchair; then five more bludgeons on the floor, followed by 14 head slams to its unmoving surface.

If we are likewise unmoved, even notwithstanding the nature of the man killed, then questions must be asked of us as well. On “social” media, the brutal assault was heralded: The accused killer, the commenters said — not even trying to mask their identities — had “cleaned up” a mess and “did us all a favor.” They asked, “Where’s his gofundme page to bail him out?” Not all heroes, they said, wear capes.

Just listen to us.

May God help the many victims in Simpson’s case — and then turn his grace on us.