Justice for Henry: My Path Forward
Some think I should be doing the same.
Not because I think Katie is wrong for doing so; she's run her race. Her quest has always been in two parts. First, she wanted to get some from of justice for Henry, and she has succeeded. True, the charges are not related to Henry's death, but the fact remains that the people who were involved are now facing prison time and have been exposed as drug dealers, not "Good Samaritans." Now it's time for her to set her priorities on the second part of her quest, to educate the public about the insidious epidemic of drug abuse, and to provide help to teens and young adults caught in the snare of drug abuse. I fully expect that Katie will take a couple of weeks to enjoy her family, rest and recharge, and then jump back into the fight, but this time, focusing on education, intervention, and treatment to prevent other families from being torn apart as hers was. I expect she will lobby for tougher drug laws, for more rigorous investigation protocols, and to have the state of Tennessee actually enforce the laws already on the books. Katie and her family will move on with the work that will give the tragedy of Henry's life and death a meaning. Nothing will ever replace Henry in their hearts, but knowing that because of Henry's death, many other lives will be saved, will provide some measure of comfort.
It's time for Katie to start that work, bringing meaning out of a meaningless tragedy.
But for the rest of us, there's still hard work to be done.
Let's get this straight right from the beginning. Henry was a drug addict and a dealer. He sold drugs to support his habit. He'd been through rehab a couple of times, but was unable to kick the addiction. In the end, that addiction cost him his life. My father was an alcoholic and he died several years ago, partially because of the drinking, so I have some understanding of what Katie went through with Henry. But there were significant differences between my father's death and Henry's. My dad died from kidney failure brought on by a combination of hemochromatosis and the alcoholism. He drank, knowing that it would eventually kill him, because to him, he had no choice not to. The addiction was too strong. In this, he was just like Henry. But the key difference is that nobody took my father away from his family, nobody used his addiction to control and isolate him, and nobody gave him an overdose of alcohol while telling him it was safe.
Henry was an addict, and he was a dealer, and had he been arrested for using or dealing, I would have stood foursquare for him to pay the price for his crimes as decided by a court of law. I believe in accountability. However, that is not what happened. There was no justice in Henry's death. No trial, no court of law, no judge, no jury, no appeal. To say that because he was an addict, Henry somehow deserved what happened to him is ludicrous because that means that Henry was at fault for allowing people to take advantage of him.
We stopped blaming the victim in most cases a long time ago; drug users are one of the last holdouts.
The only way to change this is to get people to recognize their own prejudices, to rub their noses in it if necessary, and that's what I am going to do.
My goal is to make the folks at the KCSD and at the KNS see Henry and other young addicts as people, not things. I want them to understand that when as addict is taken advantage of, is beaten and robbed it is no different than any other citizen being beaten and robbed. Some law enforcement officers will tell you that this is already the case; the more honest ones will admit that some citizens are more important than others.
The way to end this insidious kind of discrimination is to highlight it whenever it occurs; to point it out with a brilliant spotlight so everybody sees it. As I learn more about the investigation and how the story was covered by Knoxville media, I'll be examining every statement, every press release in order to look for and highlight any signs of complacency, indifference, or incompetence. By shining a light, I hope to dispel some ignorance.
That's my path forward.
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One other huge difference between Henry and your father is that Henry was only 18 years old. While there are, of course, many exceptionally mature and responsible 18 year olds, including some serving in our armed forces, the reality is that physically, mentally, emotionally and experientially, we all know that 18 year olds are still mostly kids. In fact, we don't even believe that 18 year olds have sufficiently mature judgment to buy alcohol legally. In my son's case, he had not yet even shaved regularly and he was still growing - he grew about an inch in the last few months of his life. His feet were even still growing. When a teenager is suffering from mental illness or from an addiction to a powerful narcotic that got hold of him before he turned 18 years old, I believe we need to recognize that this teenager is even LESS able to make conscious, intentional decisions than your average 18 year old, and we should also recognize that a teenager in the grips of mental illness or addiction is very, very vulnerable to manipulation and victimization by older people who have an agenda - whether that agenda is financial gain, sexual perversion or whatever.
As for my son being a dealer, I swallow hard every time I read that because the only evidence that exists of my son's dealing is evidence that ***I**** voluntarily offered to authoritities to help get other dealers off the street. To be fair to Henry, he was never arrested or charged or convicted of any crime, yet his reputation has been sullied in a way that is very, very painful to me. The much older adults now arrested and charged with drug dealing are referred to as "accused" and "alleged" - and that's appropriate. They will also receive every consideration and protection our legal system and media ethics provide to be sure that their reputations are not forever tarnished with the words "drug dealer" unless they are ultimately convicted. Yet my son, who has no protection, no peer review of the evidence "against" him, and who was never charged with any crime is now forever branded "drug dealer" because I wanted to be as straigtforward as I could be in sharing info with authorities so they could use that info to go after still-active criminals who might be preying on other teens.
Don't misunderstand - I do believe Henry was dealing drugs in the final period of his life - but many victims of crime were likely involved in something that they should not have been at the time of their death, yet it's not common practice for the public to consider that negative behavior to be their defining characteristic.
My son was a teenager hooked on drugs sold by adults who made and still make lots of money on the addicts they create and kill. He was confused and scared and tortured and making some seriously bad choices. He was sexually exploited and manipulated and lied to by people that in his immature, confused judgment, he believed he could trust. And whatever "drug dealing" he engaged in in the final period of his VERY short life does not define him and should not be so primary in the way people discuss him.
I hope this makes sense, and that I have, perhaps, earned the "right" to express this opinion without sounding inappropriately defensive, given how open and forthright I have been about what I know about Henry's drug selling.
Respectfully - Katie
These are only the KCSO records, which I don't know to include or exclude anything that happened in other states. It seems obvious to me, without having any criminal justice training, that these 2 are very far removed from the classification of "good samaritans." It seems that this common knowledge would call for an extensive investigation, not just an interview or 2 and some incomplete phone records.
I'm hoping that a further investigation will show what political relationships caused the case to be closed, if that was the reason.
The addiction to pain pills in the U.S. will become an epidemic. I would love to see a nation wide data base between pharmacies, clinics, physicians, and hospitals linked to medical records and prescriptions. I think it would be a start to control the numerous drugs that become easily available on the street.