In all the news last week -- the Audrie Pott case, the Boston Marathon, the Texas explosion -- it was easy to overlook the coda to the killing of Quinn Boyer, the Santa Clara County paramedic fatally shot in the Oakland hills.
For more than two weeks now, I've had a stubborn pebble in my journalistic shoe about this case. After the police arrested six young teens in the killing, I'm convinced it's a rock. Two themes in this homicide dumbfound me.
One reflects the clash of character between victim and shooter, the contrast between good and bad. The second touches on the sheer randomness of the killing.
The 34-year-old Boyer did the right things. He grew up in Oakland, and played a mean game of basketball for St. Theresa's School. He graduated from Sonoma State, the Santa Rosa Fire Academy and the Foothill College paramedic course. He volunteered his time at an Order of Malta Clinic and had been accepted to a physician's assistant program at Stanford.
On the day he was shot, he had taken his 65-year-old father to the doctor and dropped him at home. We know he felt a filial tug beyond the average.
The kids? One was 13, two were 14, two were 15, and one, Christian Burton, the alleged shooter and the only teen charged as an adult, was 16. They had all cut school.
The motive? Authorities have described it as a carjacking turned lethal. As he stopped at the intersection of Keller Avenue and Hansom Drive shortly before noon on April 2, Boyer was shot at point-blank range.
Background of kids
On some level, whoever raised those kids failed. Even if the others were only along for the ride, they didn't know the value of human life, the very stuff Boyer dedicated his career to saving.
Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan talked about the phenomenon of ever-younger shooters, saying he was "very concerned'' about an unacceptable trend.
But it isn't just the age of the kids that chills us. It is the randomness of the crime. How did one of them execute a man who -- in different circumstances -- would readily try to save their lives?
On a beautiful morning last week, I drove up to the spot where the crime occurred in the affluent Sequoyah Heights neighborhood, which offers a view of San Francisco.
After Boyer was shot in his Honda Civic, he hit the accelerator and the car jumped the median, crossed the street and plunged down a steep ravine.
In many crimes, the victim puts himself in a bad situation. Nothing like that happened here. Boyer, a Dublin resident, was simply driving through a nice neighborhood after helping his father.
The disparity between the crime and the neighborhood might have helped a resolution. From the Sequoyah Heights neighbors, the cops collected a good description of the car, which was found miles away near Horace Mann Elementary School. A smart school cop identified the kids from a surveillance tape.
Someday we'll learn more. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be satisfied. That stubborn rock in my shoe shows no signs of going away anytime soon.