16-Year-Old Gang Member Gets 90 Years for Killing 1-Year-Old: Too Harsh?

gunsThis is one of those stories that's just sad all the way around. Last June, 15-year-old Donald Ray Dokins fatally shot Angel Cortez Nava, a 1-year-old baby boy, in the stomach as his father Mauro Cortez cradled his beautiful son in his arms. (Cortez, 24, was shot in the shoulder.)

The shooting was evidently gang-related, but Cortez was not part of a gang. Dokins rode his bike up to a crowd in a South Los Angeles neighborhood and opened fire. He mistakenly believed Cortez was in a rival gang because of the color of his T-shirt.

The day after his son's death, Mauro Cortez sought the public's help in finding the shooter and city groups offered $50,000 rewards for information leading to the shooter's arrest. Dokins was apprehended a few weeks later.

And yesterday Dokins, now just 16, was sentenced to 90 years in prison. He was charged and tried as an adult.

Was that really the answer here?

The loss of a child so young and innocent is something it's hard to wrap one's head around and Angel's parents's pain is unimaginable.

Still, a 15-year-old is really just a kid. And now that kid's life is essentially over too. Donald Ray Dokins will spend the rest of his life in prison. This is a kid who was in a gang. A kid who had a gun. A kid who was so immature, he thought someone should die because of the color of his T-shirt.

It raises so many questions. How was Dokins failed so miserably as a child? Where were his parents, his teachers, his community, and social services? When exactly was this kid let down? Was there no one who reached out to him? What is being done about gangs and gang violence? How can we help our young people? What happened to Dokins over his short lifetime that he lost his ability to empathize? (The judge says he shot the baby twice!)

And of course the BIG question: How did Dokins get a gun? Why are there no background checks? With so many children dying at the hands of guns in this country, why don't we as citizens and mothers demand that something be done?

This is a senseless crime and one that could have been prevented. But that prevention should have started 15 years ago, when Dokins was a baby. We failed him -- and now as he goes to jail for 90 years, we will, quite literally, pay that price.

There is no happy ending here. The Cortez family has lost their Angel. Society has failed yet another at-risk youth. No lesson regarding gun control has been learned. Guns will continue to kill our innocent children for as long as we let them. And yes, it IS the guns, stupid.

Since the Newtown shootings 6 months ago, more people have died at the hand of a gun than we lost in Afghanistan in the past 12 years. Repeat: More children have been killed in our country with guns in the past 6 months than American soldiers were killed during the war in Afghanistan -- over the past 12 years. Can you moms live with that?

Demand legislation, and demand it now.

 

Do you think Dokins' 90 year sentence was too little or too much?

 

Image via M Glasgow/flickr

crime, guns, racism