Yesterday morning, the young man that sleeps on the other side of my bedroom wall fired some shots, then put on his body armor, grabbed his .45 & walked two blocks away to the Riverside Elementary School apparently intending to kill & be killed. Asleep in my bed, I had no idea what he was doing.
I once wrote a bit about him in a now sadly ironically named rec-listed diary here
So it's time to go to the mercado. I go to get my shoes out of the bedroom & I hear Chris next door through the bedroom wall loudly speaking defensively in Vietnamese. That means he's on the phone with his mom & dad (at the same time). He's commented about it enough times so I know he's getting the lecture on "why haven't you found a job since the messaging service closed." THAT lecture. The thing is no one is hiring. He's recently been trying to get by on running martial arts sessions out of his apt-with mixed luck...but he dare not tell his mom & dad that. Oh, no. No way. De ninguna manera.I did not know at the time that he had a stockpile of guns, ammo & body armor in his apartment. Even less did I know of the stockpile of rage that was building up inside him.
His shooting spree is (still only partially) covered
San Pablo man arrested after shots fired at elementary schoolhere,
San Pablo police were called to Riverside Elementary School at 1300 Amador Street at 2:32 p.m. where 31-year-old Christopher Trinh was shooting a gun in the air, at vehicles and at people passing by the school, Sgt. Brian Bubar said in a news release
Man Outfitted in Body Armor Found Shooting at Cars, People...I'll try below to cover his rage-or uncover it if I can.
My sleep yesterday was broken by the sound of gunshots. Having heard them oft before (& reported on here), I merely rolled over with a half-guilty conscience & went back to sleep. I had just pulled an all-nighter doing a rush para-legal job & was enjoying sleep too much to realize life's local water had finally reached a boil after a long simmer.
I first learned of his shooting spree when Alfonso, my other (new) nextdoor neighbor on the kitchen side of my triplex, was banging with all his might on my kitchen door for fear that I had been shot.
A half hour before that, Alfonso came home & found Chris sitting against my back door with his .45 in hand. As Chris rose shouting epithets at him, Alfonso quicky retreated into his own backdoor & bolted it. Chris was still pounding on it as Alfonso called 911. Al didn't know it, but dozens of people had already called 911 & the police were only 2 blocks away.
Chris had just returned from shooting at the local Elementary School-terrorizing it into shutting down. By a incredibly lucky series of events, no one was killed or even hit that we know of so far.
Seemingly frustrated that Alfonso wouldn't open his door again, & I was unavailable, Chris went out front to sit in his chair on the sidewalk (not his first to be on there) lording it over the street & the neighbors with his weapons, his rage, & in his body armor. However, he must've barely have sat down when the squad cars careened around the corner with sirens wailing. They'd been looking for him at the school, but his plans had luckily gone awry there
The police jumped out, & as he went to move on them, they told him to throw his weapon down. He did. He knew what they didn't know, that it had malfunctioned between shooting at people driving by in front of the school & when he tried to shoot 3 people at the school. Empty-handed, he continued to charge the police. He knew what they didn't know. He was wearing body armor. They tazed him, but the body armor deflected the charge. It took 5 or 6 of them to, literally, beat him to the ground.
By the time he was in custody, Alfonso had succeeded in waking me & I was outside trying to understand the enormity of what was happening - while wondering if I was still asleep in my bed & just dreaming this nightmare.
I'd had a 1,000 conversations with Chris the last 3 years. I probably talked with him more than anyone else in this world...yet who was it I'd been talking to?
I thought it was the young man who last month was so excited to finally have brought home the exotic parrot he'd talked to me for months about getting beforehand. I thought he was the gentle soul who practiced martial arts for years as part of a spiritual quest, planning to run classes from his apartment, who had just started placing ads for doing so last year, & who the day before yesterday tried to enlist my son, my-ex wife & even my non-martial self in his classes. I thought he was the guy who after losing his messenger job when the economy shut his co down adapted by learning to do smog certification & found part-time work in it.
I didn't know he was the guy who decided to switch off his dreams & the dreams of innocent people who never did him harm & didn't deserve his terror in any way.
I had failed to see the violent rage that lay behind the soft-spoken voice.
I'm still failing to understand it, and the clues at hand I cannot tell if they are pertinent or not. I cannot see into his soul, & fear for the children who miraculously escaped him has crippled my empathy.
The incidentals? I don't know what they amount to, if anything. He hadn't had a signifcant other in the 3 years I've known him, or even dated. No kids or siblings. Parents that only spoke Vietnamese which I suspect he never fully mastered. His grandparents on one side had been hill people & didn't consider themselves to be Vietnamese. The other side of his family came from Southern China, yet considered themselves tribal & not really Chinese either. Intense pressure from his parents. The papers say he had a history of mental illness, but I never knew any of it. He use to grow pot in his apartment, & perhaps used it to self-medicate. Yet, yesterday the police say they found nothing but guns (apparently illegally owned) in his apartment. When did he stop smoking? I don't know when, or, even if he did. Much less if it is a factor either way.
Here's what I know. I could not see into his soul. I could not see what demons tortured his soul...or why he would turn those demons loose on innocent people. I've stood as close to him as you are now to your fingertips...I listened to all his dreams...but I was somehow tone-deaf to his nightmares.
If I hadn't been tone-deaf perhaps I, or one more qualified than I who I could've located, would've prevented more peacefully what in the end only sheer luck prevented...a murderous rage from turning into mass murder.
A group of neighbors are out front now on the street loudly recanting their experiences of yesterday's terror. I just heard for the first time that he shot at one of my neighbor's dogs yesterday through her door. And missed.
When insight & wisdom is missing...sometimes luck is all we have. Sometimes it is just enough to get by.
For Riverside Elementary, for its students & teacher, for the people driving by, for my street, for my new neighbor Alfonso & his kids, for myself & my son, and even for the lost soul I thought was a friendly face & now is being held on multiple charges of attempted murder, yesterday luck was just enough to get by....just enough for an enraged would-be killer to bring only one of his guns...to have that .45 malfunction after the first couple of clips, for him misplacing his keyes & not grabbing another gun when he came home, for him to have shot earlier into the kitchen side of his bedroom wall & not my side of it & for me having overslept & not be on my computer working in the kitchen when death came knocking at my screen door...just enough luck to make it to today & tomorrow.
Here where San Pablo meets Richmond, that's lucky.
That's helluva lucky.