My Brother’s Use of Gun Created Lasting Childhood Wounds

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trauma: Flying bullet from light particles. Vector illustration

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I have zero experience with guns. Other than using a water gun at the local fair to win a prize, I never held a gun, shot a gun or even seen a real gun in person. 

In my world, guns exist in movies and should only be carried by law enforcement. I know that guns in America have been a sensitive issue due to all the mass shootings. I also know that guns are used for hunting, but for me, I’m a city guy, so when I think of guns, guns are generally used by the wrong people for the wrong things. Thoughts like this just don’t fall out of the sky. 

Allow me to share with you where my bias comes from. 

Do you remember your first day of kindergarten? Do you remember the emotions you experienced during this significant day? For me, I was excited and anxious all balled up into one. I clearly recall waking up early, taking a shower, combing my hair and putting on my new school clothes. 

I walked into the kitchen and there was my mom as she was preparing my breakfast: “Mira, my mijo looks very handsome and is going to make Mama proud.” This was a big day for me, but it didn’t take long for my excitement to fade away. Within seconds of finishing my breakfast, several police officers stormed my house with their guns drawn. 

I ran and hid as my emotions overwhelmed me. While hiding in my room, I could clearly hear my mom crying and yelling at the officers while they terrorized our home. Hearing my mom’s anguish broke my heart. While hiding in my room, I began to cry, hoping to never be found. This was not the day I imagined. My joy was stolen and replaced with feelings of uncertainty, sadness and loneliness. The only thing I wondered was what happened to cause all this mayhem. 

It wasn’t long before I learned that my 16-year-old brother, Tony, shot and killed a rival gang member. 

Trauma doesn’t go away

Visiting my brother in juvenile halls, youth authorities and prisons for over 30 years became my new normal. I never had a typical relationship with my brother. Matter of fact, to this day, I really don’t know my brother beyond prison visiting rooms. 

For years, I was angry at all the things that represented the brother I didn’t know, such as gangs, violence, drugs, guns and of course all the other stuff that I associated with his behavior. The trauma I endured continues to be relevant in my life, 40 years after he pulled the trigger in a senseless crime. 

For decades, I never properly dealt with my trauma and now I’m paying the price because of poor decisions I made. It’s a tragedy to know how one bullet can change the lives of countless people, both directly and indirectly. 

It took 39 years for my brother to be paroled, as he was released last November 2018. 

That didn’t stop his victim’s family from sending letters to the parole board and governor reminding them of the pain and damage my brother caused them. 

The implications of gun violence are clearly immense. Think about all the people who have lost loved ones due to guns. 

It doesn’t matter if it happened at Columbine, Parkland, Newtown, a movie theater, nightclub, concert or in our neighborhoods, the truth is that valuable lives are being killed due to irrational acts. The wounds and scars that are left are never fully healed and are often passed on from generation to generation. 

Richie Angulo is in Avenal State Prison in Avenal, Calif., for life. He is not eligible for parole until 2035, after serving 25 years.

The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at dinocencio@thebeatwithin.org.

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