Roger Kreutz dashed to right a wrong. A tiny wrong, by modern standards, but a wrong nonetheless. "Dammit," Roger might have thought, "you can't even enjoy a quiet cup of coffee anymore." Then he sprang into action. Aaron Poisson has a girlfriend and a car. And he's out of high school. That's a liberating combination to a young man. The boundaries of his youth--walls to many young men aching to break the chains of childhood--are far behind him. Atlanta's no longer big enough for Aaron, so he grabbed his honey and headed West, to Cincinnati and St. Louis. One hundred thirty years ago, Aaron would have been a pioneer. Today, he's more of a drifter.
Gary Poisson described his son's stunt as "a silly, sophomoric misdemeanor gone horribly, tragically wrong." It was "poor judgement" and "stupidity" and "petty theft. It was wrong." But Aaron, nineteen, and his girlfriend, 21, are not malicious. He was in St. Louis to visit St. Louis University and Washington University with the possibility of attending one or the other in the fall. Gary says his son is a good kid who, since meeting his present girlfriend, has shown a propensity for doing stupid, impulsive things, like reaching into tip jars.
On March 4, 2008, Gary's son walked into a Starbuck's in St. Louis County. Aaron's girlfriend bought a drink. Aaron waited until she'd secured the beverage, then reached into the tip jar, extracted five dollars and twenty cents, then fled the store.
Roger was the kind of guy who should have been near Ground Zero on September 11. He would have rushed into the burning Towers to save lives and, maybe, smash a few terrorists heads had they somehow survived the impact. Roger might have been in the First Lady's booth at a State of the Union Address for some act of selfless heroics. If only his selfless act of heroism had involved some larger crime or tragedy.
How Roger learned that Aaron had stolen the contents of the tip jar is unknown. At least, it's not discernible from the security tape that shows Aaron stealing the money. But Roger knew there was a wrong to be righted, and, since no one else was stepping up, Roger would.
Aaron and his gal were in their car. Roger was on foot. Aaron backed up to get out of there. Roger went down. The car backed over Roger then took off. In fewer than 24 hours, Roger died from the injuries sustained in Aaron's getaway.
Aaron's petty crime became a string of felonies in less than one minute. Roger's compulsion to make things right left him dead.
Gary Poisson understands the long-term consequences of impulsive acts. One stupid decision can lead remarkably tragic consequences. An act of childish thievery too small to make the crime section of the Suburban Journal winds up on NBC News because of the lethal coming-together of a teenage boy, a girl, a car, and a hero.
Aaron Poisson faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, and misdemeanor larceny. His girlfriend was not charged, apparently, because she's not a man. Gary Poisson's funeral is Monday, March 10. Righteous bloggers and talk-show callers want Aaron hanged.
I want God to rewind the tape a week in hopes that, upon further review, someone--anyone--did something just a little bit differently.
Listen to the interview with Gary Poisson on KMOX.com
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