That Guy Was My Friend, Part 1
Today would’ve been Jake’s 30th birthday. As a tribute, I’d like to share a lesson I learned five years ago….
On April 4, 2005, at approximately 1:00 AM, my friend Jake Faust was pulled over by police officers while driving past the Golden West Hotel in downtown San Diego. What happened over the next few minutes remains a controversy to this day, but somehow, Jake ended up getting shot three times in the chest. The incident was reported all over the local news.
Two nights after he was killed, Jake’s friends arranged a candlelight vigil in front of the hotel. Unfortunately, I had been out of town, and by the time I found out about Jake, I had already missed the vigil. Still, I wanted to pay my respects, so I raced back to San Diego and headed downtown on my own the next afternoon. As I drove past the hotel, I could barely make out the small gathering of flowers and candles on the sidewalk. They seemed an almost insignificant speck in front of that massive building. Even after I parked, even as I walked towards the memorial, it all looked so small and trivial. Many of the candles still burned, and there were plenty of people walking along the sidewalk. But no one gave those flowers and candles more than a passing glance.
I knelt down, and I added my own flower and candle to the mix. And as I continued to kneel, taking a moment to Jake—and to myself—I started to catch the murmurs from the people walking on the sidewalk behind me.
Did someone die right there?
Hey, that must be where that guy got shot by the cops.
Yes, it was true. This was where “that guy” got shot. This was where “that guy” died. The thing is, “that guy” was my friend. And I wanted to turn around and scream at the top of my lungs to everyone who passed by.
Stop talking about “that guy!”
He’s not just “that guy!”
But what was the use? To all these random people walking down Fourth Avenue on this random Tuesday afternoon, he was just some motorist they read about in the paper. He was some unlucky guy who had a run-in with the cops. He was a footnote, a statistic, on a simmering issue of police brutality. As far as these people were concerned, he was simply “that guy who got shot.”
But to me, he was a friend. And this was the spot that my friend lost his life. I wished all those people walking past me would realize this, would understand this, but I knew he meant nothing to them. And so, as I knelt there alone, as the people passing by continued to cast curious but superficial glances over the flowers and the candles, I could only whisper to myself.
That guy was my friend. “That guy” was my friend.
And that’s when I realized how cold and detached people have become to the violence in the world. “Incidents” that we hear about on the news involve human beings. You may not know them, you may not have any feelings for them, but somebody probably did. And when you decide to tap your friend on the shoulder and try to start a casual conversation with, “dude, did you hear about that guy who got shot by the cops the other night,” someone who cared about that guy might be standing nearby.
So, the next time you feel inclined to make a passing comment about some incident that happened to some random person, please be weary of your idle chatter. It may come across as tactless to those whose hearts the incident struck close to. You’re not expected to be sympathetic to someone else’s loss. But maybe the least you can do is to be sensitive to it.
Jake Faust was my friend. And it saddens me that the rest of San Diego will only ever know him as another “that guy.”
Here’s a letter from Evan that I’d like to share with you, as well.