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What can we learn from the death of Diego Chavira?

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Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009 10:00 pm

I wish something more could come of the death of 19-year-old Diego Chavira. Something more than regret.

Diego was not someone I knew well, but you couldn't miss him. He played soccer and baseball with my youngest son, Mike.

He was a short guy long on desire. Diego delighted his teammates and everyone in the bleachers with his wisecracks and scrappy play.

I've tried this week to make sense of his life and the shooting that ended it. I'm sadly stumped.

Sheriff's detectives aren't releasing much about what happened, but it's clear from those close to his family that it was just the most senseless death.

It wasn't a gang thing, they say. Diego had avoided the gang activities in his east Lodi neighborhood. Diego was not a fighter. But he went to a fight - not his fight, but someone else's fight.

Maybe he went to break things up. Maybe he got carried away and made things worse. It was like Diego to think he could help, but he couldn't or didn't.

What we know is, he was shot dead.

His death has broken many hearts. His friends were both Mexican-American and "white," by which I mean of predominantly European descent. The parents and kids who are scratching their heads and wishing this hadn't happened come from both sides of the tracks.

Diego was the rare teenager who engaged adults directly and frequently, with respect and humor. He was also an unusual high school kid who reached out to people of all cultures.

"I'd say the majority of his friends were white," said his blond-haired friend Justin Mynear. "That's probably based on the fact he played a lot of sports. On the (Lodi High) baseball team, we were almost all white."

Diego was a crack-up. Several friends recalled funny moments - most of them more appropriate for a high school locker room than the newspaper. But there was the time he gave all-star baseball coach Ted Coffee a celebratory belly rub in front of the whole team.

But kidding aside, he respected his coaches and worked hard.

"It was impressive. His junior year, he didn't start; he didn't play much. But," said Mynear, "come his senior year, Diego was a much better player. He played Cal-Mex and Legion ball that summer. He was picking up games.

"Hitting, catching, throwing, fielding - he was an all-around better player … ," when he returned to the high school team for his last season.

Diego lived in the poorest part of Lodi's Eastside, but against all odds he was a good student. He would have gone to a four-year college. He wanted to study law enforcement at San Francisco State.

And then he was shot dead in a parking lot.

I've talked to Lodi Police Chief Dave Main about this - about boys who can't seem to avoid a fight. About those who drag others like Diego into their fights. Main knows it's a problem and is going through the methodical steps of testing a program to reach out to these boys.

It is called the GREAT Program - it has to do with gang resistance and education. But it has to be tried and tested before it goes out to most schools. Maybe next year, maybe if the test prove out and the funding comes through … .

I talked to Lodi High Principal Bill Atterberry. He thinks an education program might work at the elementary school level. By the time boys are in high school, their attitude about fighting isn't going to be changed by lectures from adults, he said.

Many of the parents I talked to about Diego's death - people like Robert Fowler, who opened his home to Diego for several months, and Jeanne Glass, whose son played soccer and had classes with Diego. They want to do something right now. But what?

I wonder if our readers have any ideas, any advice for people like Main and Atterberry and me in the media.

Can those who were touched by Diego Chavira do something that will make things better next time - prevent another killing?

Or do we just bury Diego on Tuesday, eulogize his generous spirit and short life, and then move on?

Is that it?

Marty Weybret is the publisher of the News-Sentinel.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 5:37 am on Fri, Apr 24, 2009.


    wtf: :-)

  • posted at 3:49 am on Thu, Apr 23, 2009.


    Thanks, Lodian!

  • posted at 5:30 am on Wed, Apr 22, 2009.


    wtf: T & C won't answer you. He's much like Brian in the way that he runs off to lick his wounds when cornered. He won't concede, admit a mistake, apologize or debate with respect. Don't expect much from him.

  • posted at 5:26 am on Wed, Apr 22, 2009.


    T & C wrote on Apr 20, 2009 1:31 PM:" wtf... you seem to have way too much spare time on yer hands. Have you ever done anything more than just THINK about volunteering in your community to make a positive effort to "Help Others"? I'm still waiting for an answer! "T & C: Your true character is revealed when you boast of your charity work and then belittle others as if you know they do not do charity work or volunteer in our community. Real charity is done without boasting about it. Otherwise it's just you looking for strokes again. Have some class and keep it to yourself. Most of us here do charity work and volunteer, but do not feel the need to constantly remind others of what we do.

  • posted at 3:29 am on Tue, Apr 21, 2009.


    Here it is the next day, T&C....still no response from you.Just curious....***my*** volunteer work is ***your*** business because.....???

  • posted at 11:08 am on Mon, Apr 20, 2009.


    Well T&C....I'm waiting. I asked you two question 30 minutes ago.1. Just where did your left field comment come from?2. What makes you so sure I **don't** already volunteer?And I'm going to throw in a third question:You act like you've asked this before; but you havn't. If you have, which I don't recall; just exactly **when** was it?

  • posted at 10:42 am on Mon, Apr 20, 2009.


    Mr. Weybret, My letter to the editor on E15 (unfortuately only partially printed) left out the most important point I , which equally holds true in this case. Until parents of these youth and our community stand up to change the culture of what's acceptable in our communities, these types of tragedies will continue. Diego didn't die because he was a gangster, or a bad kid, he was a great kid who helped someone who asked for it. But until we start holding kids at a younger age, accountable for gang violence, drugs and truancy, these incidences will only increase and our community will mourn more of our kids. Start educating and empowering parents, schools and courts. By the time they're 19, it's too late.

  • posted at 10:38 am on Mon, Apr 20, 2009.


    T&C: Where did ***that*** come from? I don't recall you **ever** asking me that question and besides, how do you know I **don't** volunteer in the community?Talk about someone with too much time on their hands.Geez!

  • posted at 8:31 am on Mon, Apr 20, 2009.


    wtf... you seem to have way too much spare time on yer hands. Have you ever done anything more than just THINK about volunteering in your community to make a positive effort to "Help Others"? I'm still waiting for an answer!

  • posted at 1:55 pm on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    wtf said: true strength " comes from knowing ones ability to do harm and then exercising restraint, compassion, mercy and wisdom."Well said. Very well said !!!!

  • posted at 12:43 pm on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    We have to change.I'll probably get flack from the "usual suspects" but if we don't look in the mirror first, this problem with the young people will never be solved; no matter how much we try to justify our actions when we do basically the same thing.

  • posted at 12:43 pm on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    Violence is rampant in our society these days. Here are a few examples:Having financial problems? Kill your wife, your kids and yourself.Couple, their 3 kids found dead in Maryland homehttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090418/ap_on_re_us/maryland_family_killedWant to "make" your "enemy" talk? Torture them....even children.Bush Advisor Says President Has Legal Power to Torture Childrenhttp://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11488.htmMore Than 20 Types Of War Crimes Against Childrenhttp://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0903/S00436.htmCovet your neighbor's goods? Kill him; take themGaza 2009: Operation Cast Leadhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k90Jw4AVT-4Don't like someone's politics? Beat themPolice beat another G20 protesterNew evidence in violence against demonstratorshttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6122785.eceOr label them a "terrorist"http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig8/barnett7.htmlThen we wonder why young people's first choice when solving differences is violence.

  • posted at 11:57 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    In essence, the "change" would have to come with many in positions of authority and in ourselves, before any change could be made in these young mens' behavior; otherwise, it's nothing more than a case of "Do as I say, not as I do."

  • posted at 11:55 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    These young men would have to learn that "true" strength does NOT come from exercising violence or the barrel of a gun; it comes from knowing ones ability to do harm and then exercising restraint, compassion, mercy and wisdom.Something many adults don't even understand.

  • posted at 11:55 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    I did not know the young man who was murdered; but, from all accounts, it sounds like he was trying to reason with the fighters...not be a lookie loo.Unfortunately, there are not enough people like this young man...adult or teenager, and this fight with its tragic results, is symptomatic of our society today.We have a government that invades other countries with "pre-emptive" wars and police who taser at the drop of a hat - thankfully for us in Lodi, LPD doesn't have this problem.For many, as government policy, in homes or in the schoolyard, violence is the first resort. All of this would have to change.

  • posted at 10:40 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    T & C: this wasn't peer pressure. It was familial love. Mr. Weybret: Thank you for your article. Our world is much diminished by the loss of this young man.

  • posted at 7:52 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    In response to promoting a structured program... There is a small youth wrestling program called the FIRECATS. These boys learn to wrestle with respect and honor. Wrestling gives them the opportunity to be aggressive, like most boys enjoy, in a respectful and educational atmosphere. They learn to wrestle fair and to be respectful of their opponent. This might be a GREAT program for ALL boys. They still get to be rough and tumble boys, but with guidance in being respectful and honorable. I also think this sport builds confidence as they know what their body can do so they don't have to go out and prove they are a tough guy. I would like to see the principals from the high schools further promote this program.

  • posted at 7:44 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123993279578927837.htmlSorry here it is

  • posted at 7:43 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    Great article Mr. WeybretHere is a link to another that I read right before this one. Don't know how much it helps but it seems like it could be somewhat applicable .

  • posted at 4:45 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    Marty, I am so glad you wrote this article. Since I know you can find out who I am, I hope you will keep me informed on any program or anything that I can help with. I have 2 teenagers, 1 boy and 1 girl, I would definately donate what time I resources I could to be a part of the solution. Contact me directly if you know of something already. I think it is a GREAT idea to promote some sort of structured youth program.

  • posted at 2:52 am on Sat, Apr 18, 2009.


    Two things come into play which cloud the loss of this promising kid, and every other death! First is the cloud of denial by friends and family of the true facts about someones background, painting a Saintly image rather than admit there were flaws in someones character, case in point, Sandra's suspected killer's family! Second, we're only fed information that the Media, poilce and prosecutor wish us to know. The image reflected is not only biased but often times distorted. I believe he was at the wrong spot at the wrong time, maybe supporting a friend in Stockton who got caught up in something. Things went wrong, and he can't learn from his mistake now. But other's Can learn if they choose too. When a teen dies while drinking & driving, every one of their friends shed a million tears, flowers, and stuffed bears, but teens continue to drink and drive, die, or kill others! Peer pressure is a powerful influence and my wish is that others who knew Diego, find the strength and courage to say no, when it comes to something that could end someone's life. Rest in peace Diego.


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