Walk A Mile…

Just over a year ago, convicted felon Anthony Gonzales and four accomplices stormed a home in Arizona wearing tactical gear and body armor and armed with assault rifles. They claimed to be police. They held a local rapper and his family hostage while looking for about $60,000 in jewelry. When police sirens could be heard, the thugs bailed, then led Gilbert police on a chase that ended with one of the two vehicles being overturned in a PIT maneuver. Gonzales died when he was ejected from the vehicle and pinned underneath it. Later, his mother filed a notice of intent to sue and even offered an up-front settlement amount. Last month the lawsuit was finally filed in civil court against the Town of Gilbert and three police officers (reference case # CV2010-015823 to see the initial filing).

I blogged about this incident back in December, and mirrored the post on a local website (one I no longer post new missives on). Today a woman claiming to be Anthony Gonzales’ ex-girlfriend posted a late comment:

You know.. its bad to judge because no matter what like one of you said…you can be rich and grow up with the most proper and smart parents their (inappropriate term) kid can be a murderer you see it on the tv all the time. Anthony Gonzales was my boyfriend and the love of my life. Im not just saying this because of that but im saying it because I KNOW HIM. He was very very smart and helped ME get thru school. He was the man of his house taking care of his sisters and mom and grandma. He was doing that since his grandfather passed. He had a crazy life yes.. but his intentions were good. It sounds dumb but its true. Was it smart or good thinking? NO! And if he were still here I would tell him that. But hes gone now and I cant. His main goal was always to take care of his family even when he got out. What he did the first time was young dumb actions that gave him big consequences. This time..his intentions were to make enough money to take care of his family’s problems until he found a job. I talked to him days and the night before…he never mentioned doing anything like this and i couldnt believe he would after his first mistake and doing 3 years. But Anthony didnt care about himself .. he gets caught up thinkin about helping his family. So.. did he make a good choice? No. Did he pay for it? Yes … with the ultimate punishment. Death. And were all still paying for it. The suing stuff is not true. His mom doesnt want a DIME for nething… because it wont bring her son back. He was loved so much and honestly a smart and special person who just would make bad decisions part of because he was in prison from 17 to 21 yrs old. He became a man in there. SO my only thing I ask is put yourself in our shoes and think if it was someone in your family. Thank you

Here is my response, via email:

I don’t typically get on azcentral.com anymore as I am boycotting over their tasteless handling of a story regarding Gilbert PD Lt. Shuhandler. I did, however, want to respond to your comment.

I have put myself in your shoes. Many times. I love my dad, and I love my brother. I still love my ex and we’re good friends. If any one of them did what Anthony had done, I would not have defended them in any way, shape or form. If they survived I would cut them off completely out of support for their victims until they expressed deep, genuine remorse and a willingness to take whatever punishment justice saw fit to dole out. I can tell you it wouldn’t be easy. I have thought long and hard about how I would react if it was a member of my family.

I used to be a corrections officer and I saw some of the most violent offenders go to visitation with their significant others, parents, siblings and children and be loving and affectionate people. Within hours of returning to their cell blocks they would be completely different people. Those thoughtful, amazing men who really just wanted to take care of their families would turn into violent thugs the instant it was just them and us.

I would venture a guess that you never knew what he was really like. I learned a very important lesson when I was a kid, one that has followed me throughout my life: character is who you are when you think those you care about the most aren’t watching. The most violent rapists, serial killers and robbers in US history all had families and friends who couldn’t believe what they were accused of.

I’ll tell you what I tell every family member of a criminal I write about…instead of asking me to stand in your shoes, try thinking beyond what you feel about what happened. Put yourself in the shoes of the victims of Anthony’s crimes and imagine how you would feel if Anthony had been the victim rather than the perpetrator. You’d likely feel very, very differently.

A few more thoughts…having a “crazy life” does not now nor will it ever excuse the victimization of others. Anthony and his four friends had to do some serious planning. They had to find out that their victim had the items they wanted, they had to find a way to purchase body armor, tactical gear and semi-automatic AR-15’s (which he was not allowed to handle, much less own), and they had to plan the attack itself. This was not an operation that was planned and pulled off in the space of a few hours. It took time to develop. No good man is capable of planning such a thing and carrying it out and later have anyone believe that he just wanted to take care of his family.

Before anyone else tries to give me a lecture on putting myself in the shoes of those who loved the criminal I’m eviscerating in print, stop and think about how the victims of your loved one feel right now. When you’ve found yourself capable of putting your own pity party aside to think of someone else and you think you’ve got a good idea how they feel, by all means let me know what you come up with.

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4 thoughts on “Walk A Mile…

  1. ” He was the man of his house taking care of his sisters and mom and grandma.”

    So these people accept blood money? They are fine with that?

  2. “It sounds dumb but its true. ”

    Umm…it doesn’t just sound dumb. It is dumb.

    “He was very very smart and helped ME get thru school. ”

    Are you as proud of the other adults who finally graduated from Kindergarten? That’s the mentality you have. No wait. That’s insulting to people who graduate from kindergarten. Getting through school is not hard. You should not need help.

  3. John – I do think getting through school is hard for some people. Not everyone’s brains and talents are wired the same way. Up to 8th grade… whatever. But after that not everyone is cut out for the college prep track that American schools demand.

    And that’s not a put-down, either. Someone may have no interest or ability in reading A Tale of Two Cities but can take one look at a car and know how to fix it. And quite frankly, that mechanic will probably make more money than I do.

    There is a definite connection between learning abilities and environment (along with genetics). In order to do certain things, you need to “awaken” the brain’s synapses at the appropriate time. Miss the interval and you’re in for a much worse time of it.

    That’s not bad for my children (and any children you might ever raise for the same reason) – they’re exposed to cultural, physical, and educational opportunities constantly because my husband and I make the effort (and it costs some bucks, let me tell you – even though we homeschool). But I taught children while I was in the classroom whose parents not only didn’t introduce them to ABCs or colors or shapes prior to kindergarten, but didn’t even have any books in the house!

    The priorities in that are clear, and the child picks them up. They might never learn to read beyond a 6th grade level.

    So, aside from the things I vehemently disagree with and that make me ill in the girl’s response – I can’t find fault with the fact that she felt school was impossible. For her it probably was.

  4. I see your point AFW. I found high school hard because I went the college prep route and I was overmatched. But I knew I had to go for it or forget college. Even at that I never cut class and I did my homework. Worst case grades were C or C-. Yeah I got a D in English Lit once because I refused to write about MacBeth and took a zero on that paper.

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