• September 23, 2014

Untimely deaths deserve answers

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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:30 am

The only thing certain in life is death.

It can come in an instant. It can come in a flash.

Here, in recent weeks — and actually all the time in newspapers — we’ve written and read a lot of stories involving death. When a person dies, it’s news. And even if a death doesn’t make a “news” story, everyone is entitled to an obituary when they die.

However, some deaths do make bigger news. Many make the front page.

Recently, I wrote about a car accident, a head-on collision in Nolanville. One man died, two other people were injured.

I spoke to the man who was driving one of the cars. Maota Esau said he never saw the other car coming. It was late, around midnight. He and his friend, Dante Fair, were coming home. They worked at the H-E-B distribution site in Temple. And like they normally do, Maota was about to drop off his friend in Killeen before heading home to Harker Heights. But they never made it that far.

When they were crossing the overpass in Nolanville, out of the blue, out of the darkness, a car rammed into them. It was going the wrong direction on U.S. Highway 190.

Like many of us, I drive on U.S. 190 all the time. I don’t expect to see a car going the wrong way, especially at midnight.

Battered and bruised, Maota woke up when emergency crews were pulling him out of the car.

Now his family and Dante’s family and others are still trying to understand what happened; still trying to heal while Dante’s life is gone. He was 29. A father. Gone in an instant.

You never know with death sometimes. It can happen slowly over age. It can happen quickly ... just on your way home from work.

Another big news item we worked on last week was the case of a shooting involving the Killeen Police Department and a soldier.

On the night of July 13, a shootout happened at a Killeen apartment. There, Robert “Bobby” Hornsby was killed. He was a four-year veteran of Killeen Police Department and a member of the SWAT team. Police say he was killed by Pfc. Dustin Cole, a combat engineer in the 36th Engineer Brigade.

From what we understand, Cole had been drinking throughout the day. And that night, he threatened people who had been making noise by the pool. Police came and the gunbattle ensued. Both Dustin and Bobby were killed.

Why?

I don’t know. I’m not sure if it will ever make sense.

That said, we should try to make sense of it. We should try to understand what happened in the days, in the weeks, in the months leading up to it.

The Army is obligated to provide those answers as best it can. It owes the Hornsby family an explanation.

It owes the public an explanation, too. The public was in danger that night. That’s why Hornsby, and his brothers and his sisters with the police department, responded.

I understand the explanation may not be a good one, and I don’t think the Army is at fault here. But somehow, somewhere, in some way, something went terribly wrong. And if the Army clamps down and does not openly discuss Cole’s case, that would be the wrong course of action.

Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at jbrooks@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7468.

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