With so much crime drama inexplicably taking place this past week in Columbia County, the Feb. 24 conviction and subsequent life sentence of Thomas Bradford for the murder of Raymond Lee might seem like ancient history.
Sure, there’s still a multi-million-dollar civil suit pending in the case. And no one would be surprised if appeals of Bradford’s murder conviction are forthcoming. But before the dust settles, there’s one nagging aspect of the case that shouldn’t escape comment.
During the trial, several witnesses – including Lee’s coworkers – testified that Bradford had complained many times, even to the point of calling a supervisor, about his trailers being overloaded at the Reed Creek Water Pollution Control plant.
Bradford, a truck driver for Hudsons Grassing Co., knew that he would be responsible if any of the sludge fell out onto a highway. He blamed Lee for overloading the trailers, and at least one of the witnesses said Lee admitted doing so.
Now, as the details played out in court, there is absolutely nothing about the events of April 1, 2011, that justified Bradford pulling his pistol that day and fatally shooting Lee. Either of the men could have walked away from their confrontation before it went that far; in the end, sadly, only Bradford was able to do so.
But the fact that there was a confrontation at all, and that it was one based on a history of complaints from a utility customer, suggests at minimum that there should be some remedial work on customer service at the wastewater treatment plant – if there hasn’t been already.
There’s no excuse for Bradford shooting and killing Lee. None. But there’s also no excuse for a customer of a Columbia County government service to be intentionally mistreated.