There were a number of things he had to do to join that club of thugs. Including what has been best described to me as a "suicide mission." It involved crossing into another gang's territory, and confronting a rival gang member. The very thing his new found "friends" would flat out tell you they would never do.
A few days before he agreed to his gang initiation assignment, Joaquin told me what he was being asked to do and asked for my opinion. I told him I thought it was crazy, that it was a bad idea.
The next time I saw Joaquin was at funeral home. He was in the casket. Shot dead by rival gang members.
His death changed me and a lot of the people in our circle of friends. We knew even more clearly exactly where we didn't want to end up.
There is no way to compare Joaquin's death to that of the innocent victims who had zero connections to gangs and still lost their lives.
Those are the hardest to accept and I don't think we ever grow to understand why.
Fact of the matter is there are no easy solutions to ending this gang bloodbath. But unless we start talking about it, there may not be any solutions.
Let's move the conversation forward. Not just what happened, but what do we do now.