The Burbank Police have a slew of kids they know by name, who they watch out for. When they see them on the street they pull them over or stop them simply because they know that more than likely they can drag them in or at least ticket them for one of any number of things they may or may not be doing. Burbank, California is a very, very safe town, bordering on too safe for my taste. Thusly, the police officers, I believe, have little else to do than harrass these kids who have previously had run ins with the authorities, whether the situation at hand warrants it or not.

Four of these kids in my days of living in Burbank were Carl Strunk, Shawn Pryor and my brothers, Richard and Randall Stewart. Every cop and parole officer knew them. They couldn't walk down the street without being watched. In my more naive days I actually bought into all this crap and assumed that if they were in trouble so repeatedly, they really must just be bad seeds.

By the time they were nearing the end of high school both of my brothers had been expelled from each of the reputable schools in town and were finishing their credits at Monterey High with the rest of the gang bangers and teenage moms. (I actually graduated from Monterey too, but for different reasons. I had decided not to attend approximately 160 hours of class my senior year and had to do summer school there to graduate.) Carl had been court ordered into Outward Bound at least twice and had been habitually using hard drugs since as young as ten years old. Shawn was a nice kid with a good heart but he had a real problem with speed and trouble just followed that poor guy around like the plague. Needless to say when these four hung out, hilarious, yet mostly illegal antics ensued.

I could talk endlessly about each of these boys, especially my brothers. Each of their stories would at the very least make a watchable made for tv movie. However, I found out last night that Carl was shot and killed by a Burbank Police Officer last September so I think this is more of a tribute to him more than any of the others for now.

When I was seventeen I moved away from Burbank and the media induced facsimile of a real town that it was. Very far away. About as far as I could get without leaving the country. I moved to Boston. Now Boston is also a pretty safe town as far as US metropolises go. One of the first things I realized after spending a good amount of time away from the town I had grown up in was that there were tons of kids doing way worse shit than any of those kids back home who had been deemed unsaveable menaces to society with no chance of redemption...and it made me mad. It occurred to me that yes, they had each gotten into trouble in their own right, but by being treated as the enemy year after year they had naturally assumed their role. I saw that it was just as much the hand of the law that had created their infamous reputations and had they lived in any normal town anywhere else in the country they would not have turned out the way they did. They would not have been known as the hoodlum renegade ringleaders that they had been coined in our community for lack of any real villain.

For posterity's sake this is a portion of what was printed in the LA Times about the incident:

Los Angeles; Suspect Shot by Officers Is ID'd; Crime: Parolee allegedly fired at police Saturday during a traffic stop in Burbank. He is listed in critical condition.

The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Sep 24, 2002; ANDREW BLANKSTEIN

Strunk was a passenger in a car stopped by Burbank police for a suspected traffic violation early Saturday at Olive Avenue and Beachwood Drive.

Burbank police officials declined to provide any specific details of the shooting--including the names of the officers, the types of weapons involved or how many times Strunk was hit--pending the outcome of an investigation by a team from ...

Carl had a sister, Anya, who I used to babysit. I wonder where she is now. She was an old soul, despite her tender age and I can only imagine how her brothers life and death has affected her. I wish her peace and joy even though I will likely never see or speak to her again. And I hope that her brother is in a better place now.

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