Check out the Facebook page of the Yakima Police Department. Chief Mathew Murray put up a post recently that he says was difficult to write. It's a post about 14-year-old Charlie Taylor, a known Yakima gang member who died in a shooting September 14. The chief shares a letter from Taylor's teacher who found him to be a young boy searching for answers in life. The chief writes in the post;
"14 year old Charlie Taylor was shot and killed in Yakima. He was a documented gang member, and certainly made bad choices and engaged in some bad acts. But he was from Yakima. He was ours. And his death is a community tragedy."
The investigation into his death continues today. No arrests have been made but police say they hope to make an arrest soon.
"This is a difficult post to write. I sense that there will be very strong feelings by many. But I think the issue is too important for me to be silent.
On September 14, 2020, 14 year old Charlie Taylor was shot and killed in Yakima. He was a documented gang member, and certainly made bad choices and engaged in some bad acts. But he was from Yakima. He was ours. And his death is a community tragedy.
We received an email from one of Charlie's teachers. I received permission to share it. I hope you read it. It definitely humanizes Charlie. I also hope you refrain from ugly comments and assigning blame. My true hope is that we band together and relentlessly look for opportunities to prevent further tragedies. Our community has suffered enough - and the violence has to stop.
"I learned today that Charlie Taylor, 14 year old Yakima boy died today in a gang related shooting.
He couldn't remember my name so he called me "teacher", this made me giggle because my name plate was in front of him, and he was a great reader. Finally he gradually started calling me by name.
Charlie touched my heart. His shy smile was contagious, and he made me smile and laugh at so many little things. I loaned him my special coloring pencils over the weekend to work on his drawings, he was especially proud of his sunflower. He returned the pencils that Monday morning, without me asking for them. I told him he could keep them but he avidly told me "I took a long time sharpening them, to return them to you teacher".
As a class we would go out and play basketball, Charlie gently taught the other students to shoot hoops, and how to throw and catch a football. Never overthrowing it, always making his classmates feel like a success. When they played the board game SORRY, Charlie would discretely read the cards to the students that couldn't read. All without being asked, never being unkind to them, showing them dignity.
We celebrated Charlie's 14th Birthday in class, unaware that it would be his last. Charlie will be in my heart forever, he is missed. I still have his signed basketball. I will never look at it the same again."
You may ask, "What can I do?" There are a thousand things we can do. Read to kids at a school, volunteer at a non-profit like Madison House (gang outreach), volunteer at the police department, donate to charity, abate graffiti, deliver meals to the elderly, be kind to the people you see, be nice to others online. And on and on.
But we should all look in the mirror and ask what more we can do. Because tragedies like the death of Charlie Taylor are unacceptable. We can do better.