Keene, Texas. It’s a small town about 30 minutes south of Fort Worth. The population is around 6500, about half of whom identify as white and a third are Latino. Maybe the only surprising thing about Keene is that the town has a semi-pro soccer team. According to the local Chamber of Commerce, Keene “offers residents and visitors the charm and warm hospitality of small-town life at its best.”
That might actually be true. If you first accept the fact that in modern America, small town life includes occasional gun violence. Last Saturday, at Keene’s Sonic Drive-thru burger joint, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed a 33-year-old man with an AR-15 semi-auto rifle.
Sonic is an old school drive-in restaurant chain, with over 3500 locations in the US. You want to eat a burger or hot dog without having to leave your car? Sonic is for you. You literally drive into a parking bay, order your meal over an intercom, and a carhop will fetch it for you. On roller skates. I am NOT making that up. Sonic is very determinedly 1950s.
There’s a problem with this sort of car-centric dining, though. Bathrooms. Sonic restaurants have bathrooms for their employees, but whether those bathrooms are also available to Sonic customers depends on the individual location. Some Sonic bathrooms are open to the public, some aren’t.
I don’t know the actual policy of the Sonic in Keene, Texas. However, when Angel Gomez of Fort Worth arrived with a full bladder, he chose to relieve himself in the back parking lot.
Yeah, that’s tacky. But if you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. There’s no reporting about whether or not he tried to use Sonic’s bathroom. Maybe he did and was told it was for employees only. Maybe there was an ‘Employees Only’ sign on the bathroom door. Maybe Gomez simply didn’t care and decided to take a leak outside because fuck you, this is America. We don’t know.
What we do know is this: Sonic employee Matt Davis went to Gomez and spoke to him about the propriety of publicly pissing in the parking lot. Apparently, this started an argument. Again, we don’t know the nature of the argument. Maybe Davis interrupted Gomez mid-micturition, which Gomez resented. Maybe Gomez expressed an opinion that Keene, Texas isn’t communist Russia and he had a Constitutional right to piss wherever he wanted. Maybe Davis was unfamiliar with Sonic’s bathroom regulations; he’d only moved to Keene and started working at that Sonic only a couple of weeks earlier. Maybe Davis was rude, maybe Gomez was rude, maybe both were rude. We don’t know.
All we know is that they argued. And that argument upset the 12-year-old boy who’d accompanied Gomez to the Sonic. So he decided to interfere in an effort to stop it.
There are lots of mature ways to interrupt and end an argument. You can suggest each party step back and take a deep breath. You can find areas of agreement between the two parties, and emphasize those. You can encourage both parties to communicate respectfully with each other, and avoid using personal attacks or derogatory language.
But that’s asking a lot of a 12-year-old kid. In this case, the boy took a more direct approach. He chose to interrupt the argument by shooting Davis. Multiple times. With an AR-15. Because this is Texas and in Texas people routinely drive around with unsecured, fully loaded semi-auto assault-style firearms.
Gomez and the boy fled the scene after the shooting, but eventually returned and surrendered themselves to police. Gomez has been charged with tampering with evidence (by fleeing the scene with the AR-15); that charge may be amended later. The boy is being held in a local juvenile facility. Who knows what the fuck will happen to him. Since this is Texas, they may decide to charge him as an adult.
First responders called for a Care Flight helo to tranport Davis to a nearby hospital. But the characteristic wound ballistics of an AR-15 aren’t always amenable to treatment. Davis died. He had a son two years younger than the boy who killed him.
A whole lot of lives were massively fucked up in Keene last Saturday. Some folks will blame it on a lack of civility or respect–if Gomez hadn’t decided to take a leak in public, this never would have happened. Some will blame it on the lack of public restrooms–if Sonic (or the town of Keene) had provided adequate bathroom facilities, this never would have happened.
And some will acknowledge the obvious and blame it on the simple fact that there was a loaded AR-15 lying about unsecured in a vehicle where a 12-year-old boy could grab it and shoot the shit out of somebody over an argument about pissing in public.
Somebody had to hose off the mess in the parking lot before the carhops could safely resume roller skating meals to Sonic customers. You don’t want to get blood and bits of bone in your polyurethane wheels. It gums them up.
It’s all part of the charm and warm hospitality of small-town life at its best.
This is just to sad to like, but yeah …
It’s depressingly tragic. From our point of view down here, it’s impossible to fathom.
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It’s cultural psychopathy. If nations were people, the US would be involuntarily committed for being a danger to itself and others.
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