Stupid (Young) White Men

It's not so hard to understand reprehensible teen behavior when you've been there yourself

He talked me into hitting one myself. In my crazed state, it was fun.

Then we hit one car after another, opening unlocked doors and taking what was inside, reveling in the booty, which we piled in his back seat. We hit one neighborhood after another, and then headed toward my subdivision, Long Run Woods. At that point, the world was ours. It all built up, the drugs, the violation of society, the take, the perversity and the power, until I felt like some kind of mad king.

At the height of it, the stranger said we should break into a house. He knew where there was an old couple with a lot of money. It would be no problem.

In my frenzied state, it seemed like the thing to do, kick up the thrill a notch. But the evil of it dawned on me — and the chance that it could escalate into a far worse crime. I imagined the screams, and it scared me just enough.

Just enough to say no, we can't do that, man, no way.

We kept hitting cars, though. And here's where my gut still bleeds with shame: We ripped off cars in my own neighborhood. My own neighbors. And I didn't want to stop.

Then the sun began to seep in and our dominion over the world faded along with the darkness. We made our way back to Lee's apartment, hashing out who would get what. Mostly it was music. I think we got maybe eight bucks cash and a bunch of credit cards. He probably used them later.

Lee woke up, wondering where we'd been. We dumped our haul in the middle of the floor.

And it was right then that I started coming down. As the drugs receded, my conscience filled the void. Soon it was as big as two football fields, hovering over me, eating me alive. The light, the change of setting, seeing Lee's sleepy eyes, it jolted me to reality. What had I done? I became silent.

The stranger wasn't similarly affected. He was giddily divvying up the stuff. I told them I didn't want any of it. Keep it for yourselves. I want to forget this ever happened. We swore each other to secrecy, and I never saw the stranger again. I hate to think what kinds of crimes he's committed since.

Back in my neighborhood that morning, I felt lower than a rock's shadow and wished I was lower. I remember seeing Mr. White, my neighbor across the street, walking around in his yard. And me sitting there in a shadow by the window, knowing that he was probably wondering what kind of craven animal would rob people's cars in the middle of the night. And knowing that the animal was sitting right there, looking at him from across the street.

Friends called me and asked if I had heard about the car robberies or if my family's cars had been hit. I said no to both questions. The neighborhood had a meeting about it, and police came. Nobody ever suspected me. Everybody thought it was a troubled neighborhood kid named Steven. He screamed at people on the school bus, "I didn't do it! They robbed my cars too!"

I backed him up to help make sure nothing happened to him, good and upstanding guy that I was.

Nobody ever found out it was me, and I never told a soul about it. Never wanted to. Not until last month, when a few idiot teenagers born after it happened went on a spree that makes one of the greatest shames in my life seem like a kid's game.

I'm still not sure why I'm telling it now. I suppose it's because the experience gives me a tiny sliver of empathy for Hooks and Daugherty, who police say had no prior criminal records. All accounts seem to indicate they were a couple of do-nothing, bored suburban kids with no direction in life. And I know firsthand that a combination of drugs and wicked circumstances can cause a kid like that to do things he'd never do otherwise.

I don't know much about the third suspect, 18-year-old William Ammons. Because Ammons had a juvenile arrest for armed robbery, a very serious charge, it makes me wonder if Ammons wasn't the group's version of the stranger. Q thinks so, but it's all conjecture. And it's not Ammons doing the beating on the videotape. It's almost all Daugherty.

Sources close to the investigation have told me that police are investigating the Xanax angle but haven't substantiated it. Maybe the three of them were sober as snakes. Maybe they'd planned it for some time. Maybe they're simply evil to the core.

I'm not arguing that if they were drugged-up, it's any excuse. I refused to break into that house. For whatever reason, Daugherty and Hooks didn't have any brakes at all. They were lacking something deep down that should have stopped them from committing one of the most disgusting crimes this place has ever seen.

And for that they should go to prison for the rest of their lives, even if it was something they normally wouldn't do in a million years.

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