Allow me to just kind of run through my thinking on this:
I have sent out several posts focused on the tragic death of Omar Jamaludin. The story has moved rather quickly. He was missing for almost twenty-four hours. His body was discovered. Somewhere around another twenty-four hours, a suspect was arrested for the hit-and-run. Omar was buried. Surfers attended the funeral, representing the rest of the surfing community. This morning I received a text from a mutual friend (and surfer). It was a screen shot (my guess) taken from an instagram posting sent out last night. The suspect, who is named in the post, is to be arraigned on December 29. He lives three minutes away from Omar’s residence, has prior convictions for Driving Under the Influence, for which he is on probation. He is also in violation of a current court order to have a breathalyzer installed in his truck.
According to the message, the prosecutor on the case encourages people to show up for the arraignment or to write a letter to the judge, the desired effect being to assure the alleged perpetrator receives the maximum sentence.
I am perfectly willing to write a letter concerning Omar’s character and the loss to his family, loved ones, and the surfing community. We all have heard stories of people with multiple DUIs continuing to drive under the influence. And doing damage. Most of us, undoubtedly, know people who fit into this category. My concern is what we don’t know. Will the defendant, who has, according to news reports, admitted to driving the truck, plead guilty? What is the maximum sentence? Is it enough?
It is, currently, almost exactly twenty-four hours before the official Winter Solstice (1:47 pm, Wednesday, December 21). It snowed most of last night, it’s 31 degrees outside, there’s a lot more snow along the Strait. Road conditions are… variable, but not good. Winter, with the long, cold nights, the short, damp, dreary, dark, gray days. But, as the Summer solstice can remind us that we are rolling downhill to Winter, after tomorrow… yes, some reason to be optimistic.
I did ask you to follow my process on this. I had an accident last year… black ice, sideslipped into a tree, totaled my car. I could have taken a different route. I could have… I have avoided Highway 20 in even questionable conditions since.
It isn’t difficult to imagine the suspect, guilty until admitting or being proven guilty, saying he has changed. Or he will change. If that promise was broken before… it would make a difference.
This wasn’t an accident- only. It was preventable. The ‘run’ part makes it a crime. Vehicular homicide, manslaughter, this or that degree. A life was lost. It is probably impossible not to put a value on that life, Omar’s, and compare it to the perpetrator. Punishment, revenge, and redemption.
We judge, but we are not judges. Thankfully.
Throughout my thought process it has been impossible not to make some assessment of Omar. This is my opinion, based only on what others have said about him; on my observations of him in the water, trying to find some connection and flow with the waves, dealing with crowds and over-competitive surfers (including me); and from a limited number of conversations. He seemed very calm. He seemed to not have any of that frustrated anger or animosity some surfers have.
Again, I didn’t know him well, but I know Omar added value to the lineup. The surfing community, the chaotic mix of kooks and stylists, just-for-fun occasionalists and serious hardliners, was a few points better because Omar was a part of it. I have no doubt he added to the greater community as well. It is so important that the perpetrator know the damage he had done, the grief he has caused.
Yet, I cannot, and forgive me for this if you think it wrong or misguided, help but wonder how the Omar I imagine him to have been would judge the person who killed him and ran. I believe I would be a harsher judge.
The email address for the Prosecutors’ Office is firstname.lastname@example.org
To all who mourn and struggle and fear and hope…
When I get some information on where the arraignment will be held, and an address to send any thing relevant, I will update.