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Manteca murder: ‘I’m not going to live in fear’

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POSTED May 4, 2017 1:30 a.m.

A murder in the parking lot of a Manteca fast food restaurant followed by a carjacking at gunpoint at a red light.
Although the details are still emerging as the Manteca Police do their investigation, the age difference and the manner in which it happens has suggested to more than a few people that this is the type of murder to fear and a rarity for Manteca where the victim and the killer may not have known each other.
The buzz based on that read is almost as frightening as the act itself. Loosely interpreted the sense is that we should live in fear.
Don’t. If you do not only do they — the anti-social, malcontent, soulless, venom — win but you throw away a part of your life.
There is no need to drone on about statistics about how rare stranger murders, stranger abductions, strange home invasion robberies, and stranger rapes are. Such talk tends to rationalize that the problem isn’t that serious. It is human nature to say I won’t happen here whether we live in Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, Livermore, Pleasanton or Escalon. Such an attitude allows criminal elements such as gangs to either gain a foothold or strengthen it. We need to address issues as a community because if one neighborhood is less safe due to crime then all neighborhoods are ultimately less safe.
At the same time we need to temper our reaction so we don’t collapse inward as individuals or as a society. Fear allowed to run wild can do that.
It goes without saying that for a few days at least, most of us will be more attentive when we walk to our cars in parking lots, show a bit more restraint perhaps in unpleasant encounters with strangers, or not be lost in our thoughts, music or smartphones while waiting for a red light.
That is a good thing. We all have a tendency to become zombies of sort whether we are driving or out in public. Being aware of your surroundings and keeping thoughts about evasive actions at the back of your mind is smart. The trick is be aware of what you might need to do but don’t let it push all other thoughts aside. Fear in the right degree is healthy. Paranoia is not healthy.
Fear is what keeps me from tackling a steep rock field that is above my grade of competence when I’m hiking a mountainside. That said, it may surprise you that I have a basic fear of heights. By that I mean hiking along narrow trails clinging to mountains with drops of several thousand feet or scrambling up fairly steep rocks to reach a summit. It use to scare the dickens out of me. I’ve been in more than a few places that fit both descriptions.  I still have a healthy fear of hiking in such places. It is why I’ve managed to return alive from them.
If that sounds like a crazy man, consider this: The ability to wander the Sierra crest and points below as well as explore desert mountains and canyons has given me a sense of well-being — nirvana if you will — that I’ve never been able to obtain before.
Had I let fear consume me, I would never have discovered incredible natural beauty that words can never describe. But then again if I didn’t temper what I do with fear the odds are I wouldn’t be typing these words or doing anything right now. I would have been history a long time ago.
Most of us when we burn our hands on a stove as a kid get the point. We learn to take reasonable precautions that we never did before when our parents would repeatedly warn us not to touch the burner because it is hot. We continued to be around stoves and learned to use them. By tempering fear we are able to cook. The same is true of living.
When it comes to crime, I go back 40 years on a sultry July night when Lincoln Police knocked on our front door at 11 p.m. They had brought my mother home. She had been brutally mugged behind the laundromat by two thugs who thought she was the owner of a nearby restaurant and was carrying the night’s receipts. They took a baseball bat to her head several times and slammed her head against the hood of the car five times.
The officer knew I worked as a photographer/reporter for the Press-Tribune. The department’s camera wasn’t working and they needed photos. My mother was also adamant that she didn’t need an ambulance as someone could drive her to the hospital in Roseville.
My mom was not a pretty sight. Her eyes were swollen. Her face was black and blue. Her mouth was a bloody mess. A large number of teeth were missing. There was blood matted in her hair. Her chin looked off. Later she found out here jaw was broken in two places.
When she got out of the hospital four days later, we were in fear for our mother’s safety.
Mom didn’t fall into fear’s trap. She refused to change her routine that included working late at a retail job or venturing out on her own at night to run errands. She had gone to the laundromat that fateful evening because our washing machine was broken.
The only concession she made was to lock the front door when she was in the backyard and to hook the screen door when the front door was open at night to cool off the house.
When we pressed her, she said just seven words and that was the end of the conversation —   “I’m not going to live in fear.

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