This is a copy of the letter I wrote for the Rio Vista Beacon. There is also a brief news story from the local CBS affiliate. Photos from the candle light vigil on Saturday 3/28/15 will be posted next week.
I don’t usually see people in terms of good or bad. But this last week has jarred me out of my non-judgmental mind-set.
A kind elderly man on my rural block was murdered. He lived about five houses from me on a levee with his wife of 56 years who had been his high school sweetheart. The murderer was a young man whom I do not know but who obviously had anger issues. He had had altercations with many neighbors. He lived in a trailer hidden from the street by the house he once lived in but lost. Neighbors who know him say he has become increasingly bullying and irrational of late. I don’t know if he was doing drugs or not.
I came home Sunday night, Feb. 15, and was escorted through a crime scene area. When my partner told me who had been killed I was in a state of shock. Who would kill this gentle older man? He kept a few animals and last year wanted to give me a sheep that had followed him around since it was a lamb. He brought equipment to help neighbors with their gardens. He let people in the neighborhood swim and fish off his private dock on the slough, including the man who murdered him.
On Valentine’s Day, my partner and I pedaled our bikes past the older couple’s house. They were having a gathering and called out and waved to us. Although they own the levee road, they are always nice about granting access to walkers and bicyclists.
So, here is the story, as I understand it: Apparently my elderly neighbor went to the trailer to inquire about a dispute between the younger man and his son. The unbalanced younger man had thrown a rock through the older man’s sons’ window and cut his son’s face. I don’t know if our older neighbor had entered the house invited or uninvited but he had no weapon. He did not own a gun and all of us feel certain that he did not have violent intensions. He was shot dead.
The next day we learned that the shooter was still on the loose. While police knew who he was, there were no photos of him on the sketchy news reports, so that was frightening for us. We then heard that he was in jail, that he had turned himself in. Next we heard that he had been released because “there was not enough evidence” to charge him. There was much anger, confusion and more fear in the neighborhood, along with absolute outrage and sorrow on behalf of the dead man’s family.
Two days after the shooting, three Sheriff Department SUVs were parked near the murderer’s trailer. Finally, I thought. They are going to arrest him. But, when I took flowers to the widow and family gathered at the dead man’s house later that day, I was told that, no, the police were protecting the murderer while he got his possessions out of his house. The shooter had been afraid someone would take revenge on him for what he had done.
Now we all have learned that if you go into anyone’s house and they say they feel threatened, they have the right to kill you. In this case I feel the murderer was mentally impaired or on drugs or both, and that he did something a person in his right mind would not do: kill a non-aggressive kindly man who had been friendly to him in the past. So, the shooter got away with murder and moved on. As far as we know, he is not in any kind of program to help him so he doesn’t do this again.
I wonder what the dead man’s family will tell their children about how their beloved grandfather died. What kind of lesson is this for the children in our community? What kind of lesson is this for us adults? The murderer has two children of his own who were thankfully not at home during the killing. But think of the legacy they are yoked with.
I wonder if the murderer will come back. I don’t know what he looks like, so should I just be afraid of every stranger that comes to my door? I also wonder whose neighborhood he is living in now. Not yours, I hope.