A Facebook post from a former colleague alarmed me. It was a news story from Oklahoma about a suspect being gunned down by a police officer. The photo under the headline was of a black German Shepherd police dog that died as a result of the suspect's having stabbed him with a knife. What alarmed me was that my former colleague described the story as having involved one of her former students.
I read the story until I saw the name of this former student. Mark Salazar. I knew that name. I saw the image of a nice Hispanic youth with closely buzzed hair. He was a tough guy, but never disrespectful. Surely, it wasn't the same boy. I scanned the story, scrolling until I saw the photo at the end of the story. It was him. 22 years old. The dog got top billing, and for many who read the news, this will seem appropriate. Just another piece of trash dealt with swiftly. He won't waste any tax payers' money by being processed in the judicial system.
But for those of us who knew him, the story leaves troubling questions unanswered. Why did our boy end up in a robbery in Oklahoma? What did we miss when he was in our classes? Was there something we could have done to turn him a different direction? When we spend 50 minutes a day, five days a week with someone who is in a class with 29 other kids, how well can we actually know him?
I have nothing eloquent to say about this tragedy. It just sucks. I'm sorry for the officer who had to kill this young man. I'm sorry for the dog who died doing what he was trained to do. I'm sorry for the Salazar family who will never be able to get their boy back. I'm sorry that for whatever reason, Mark Salazar found himself dying this way.