Guns and cookies

Geoffrey Landrum

Geoffrey Landrum thought his Journal Star paper route in Peoria Heights would be safe, but he found himself confronted by men with assault weapons. People on his route learned of the problem and responded with expressions of support and appreciation for Landrum. (PHOTO BY CLARE HOWARD)

George Floyd’s death touched off a racial justice movement across the country, and in Peoria, a Journal Star newspaper carrier feels the impact with notes of appreciation, cookies and gun threats.

When Geoffrey Landrum started his job in March delivering newspapers, he stopped at the Peoria Heights police department, introduced himself and left a copy of his route map.

Seems unusual except:

Racism and hatred are pandemic in America. Landrum is African American. His job means he approaches homes in the dark of early morning and gun ownership in America is skyrocketing.

George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer with a smirk on his face incited outrage, protests and looting across America. Looting in Peoria prompted some business owners to patrol their properties with guns – in at least one case, that meant military assault weapons.

Landrum, 51, had thought his Peoria Heights paper route was relatively safe, but he found himself surveilled by armed and camouflaged men at Junction City at 3:30 a.m. where he delivers papers.

He called police.

“I was terrified, and I can’t say enough about how grateful I was to see the police” he said.

Police talked with the armed men and with Landrum. Police told Landrum it is legal for people to have guns on their own property but threatening others with the guns is not legal. The men denied they had threated Landrum.

Nights are still tense on Landrum’s route. He uses his dashboard camera, always keeps his highbeams on and stays extra alert.

He wrote a letter published in the July issue of Community Word and The Traveler Weekly newspaper about the incident. He also reached out to WEEK-TV that aired a report.

Customers on his route responded to his story. He finds letters of appreciation and cookies left for him. People expressed their sadness that the incident occurred and praised him for his work.

“It was difficult to speak out. There have been a couple of incidents since then, and I am still being bird dogged. I started this job in March, and so much has changed since then,” Landrum said.

He would like to see some of the gun loopholes closed. It is never OK, he said, to use lethal force with military weapons to protect a window or a bench.

Gannett, the owner of the Journal Star, subcontracts deliveries with another company but said last month it had reached out to Peoria police and was investigating the incident. Gannett did not respond to an inquiry requesting an update into its investigation.

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