In participating in a protest honoring someone I’ve known as long as I’ve breathed who was gunned down by what can only be described as a cowardly and overzealous cop, three (3) thoughts occurred to me: 1) that if I even so much as raised a gun towards someone, I’d probably see jail time; 2) there are different sets of rules for different people; 3) true love and compassion, when shared by a group of people, can not only provide some comfort, but also will bring about positive change in a world that doesn’t provide a level playing field. The person’s name was Jeannette Anaya and for the very life of me, I don’t understand why she was so brutally killed.
When I arrived at the steps of the District Courthouse in Santa Fe, I immediately noticed a sign that read, “16 Shots” and depicted those shots as bullets holes through the sign. The very instant the sign’s message processed through my mind, I immediately remembered a Sunday morning not too long ago. My wife, son, and I were having breakfast at a local restaurant where Jeannette worked. Though she was on duty, she took the time to sit with us and talk for a bit. We talked about this and that and she radiated positive energy. She soon turned her attention to my son and talked with him and then joked with him about girlfriends. She winked at him and my son didn’t know what hit him: He immediately turned redder than a crimson sunrise. But, he remembered her. The next couple of times we ran into her, he acted like he was the one running into an old friend.
Which made the message of the “16 Shots” sign resonate with a force of an earthquake inside my soul. The cop fired that many bullets into Jeannette’s car with several actually hitting her. Over the last few months, I’ve tried to understand how Jeannette could have possibly done anything that deserved being shot so many times. Not only that, but I have no doubt that if I even pointed a gun at someone, I’d face real jail time and loss. But not the cop who killed Jeannette: Tonight, he’ll sleep in his own bed, free as a bird. Meanwhile, Jeannette’s family walks imprisoned with the both the knowledge that Jeannette was brutally murdered and the hurt and pain of their great and tragic loss. This suffering that the officer caused will probably never fully go away. My heart bleeds for the Anayas: Jeannette really was a sweet girl who lived her life with a smile etched on her face. I never saw her without one.
But, that’s the world we live in: One in which a sweet person is gunned down by a cop who doesn’t have to face consequences for his actions. The rules for those in power simply do not apply to people like Jeannette and me. The newspapers have made more about Jeannette’s toxicology reports than they have about the brutal force employed in her murder. But, really, a toxicology report that showed cocaine isn’t a reason to be shot sixteen (16) times. I know working doctors and lawyers who use cocaine every day of their lives, should a cop go and shoot them all? But, the sad truth is that, if a person has money and/or political power, even if they’re arrested with a dozen substance flowing through their blood, they won’t see any jail time or real consequences. They certainly won’t be shot. Different rules for different folks, especially if you wear a badge and tell a grand jury that you “feared for your life.” Then, you are granted a license to kill.
Still, during the protest, I felt real love flowing on the steps of the courthouse. I saw that love as a real sign of Jeannette’s innocence: Would a hardened and violent criminal gather so may people, many of whom were strangers to the family? I seriously doubt it. what I believe is that people in our community recognize the insanity and injustice of Jeannette’s death and though she has left this physical world, her spirit continues to fly and touch people’s heart. In my opinion, the community in which we live can feel and sense her spirit and I know that the public outcry will enter power broker’s hearts and fill them with compassion. Laws need to be changed and, in time, the protest started the wave of change.
I won’t forget Jeannette and I will continue to write about the sad injustice of her physical demise. But her spirit is in this words and in the hearts and minds of all those who can see truth and sense goodness. Yes, there’s anger. But even in the anger, the crowd of protesters held hands and recited the Our Father. And I believe it is God’s Will that we seek justice for those who are not granted their fair share. We must fight back, not with violence, but with an evenly applied rule of law. Jeannette’s physical death will not be in vain.