Educator pens heartfelt letter about student killed in Yakima gang shooting

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YAKIMA, Wash. — Following the death of 14-year-old Charlie Taylor, a documented gang member who was killed in a shooting on Sept. 14, Yakima Police Chief Matt Murray released a letter from a paraeducator about the positive impact Charlie made on people’s lives.

Murray said he got permission to share the paraeducator’s letter to show people that Charlie was human, and to encourage people to help put an end to the senseless loss of youth in the community.

“My true hope is that we band together and relentlessly look for opportunities to prevent further tragedies,” Murray wrote in a social media post. “Our community has suffered enough – and the violence has to stop.”

The letter was written by a paraeducator at Naches Valley Middle School who describes Charlie as a kind, caring individual who was respectful to his peers.

The letter reads as follows:

I learned today that Charlie Taylor, 14 year old Yakima boy died today in a gang related shooting.

He couldn’t remember my name so he called me “teacher”, this made me giggle because my name plate was in front of him, and he was a great reader. Finally he gradually started calling me by name.

Charlie touched my heart. His shy smile was contagious, and he made me smile and laugh at so many little things. I loaned him my special coloring pencils over the weekend to work on his drawings, he was especially proud of his sunflower. He returned the pencils that Monday morning, without me asking for them. I told him he could keep them but he avidly told me “I took a long time sharpening them, to return them to you teacher”.

As a class we would go out and play basketball, Charlie gently taught the other students to shoot hoops, and how to throw and catch a football. Never overthrowing it, always making his classmates feel like a success. When they played the board game SORRY, Charlie would discretely read the cards to the students that couldn’t read. All without being asked, never being unkind to them, showing them dignity.

We celebrated Charlie’s 14th Birthday in class, unaware that it would be his last. Charlie will be in my heart forever, he is missed. I still have his signed basketball. I will never look at it the same again.

Mrs. Chance
Paraeducator, NVMS

Murray said despite Charlie’s bad choices, he was a valued member of the community, and his death was an “unacceptable” tragedy.

“You may ask, ‘What can I do?,’ Murray wrote. “There are a thousand things we can do.”

He suggested reading to kids at a school, volunteering at a non-profit like Madison House, which does gang outreach, volunteering at the police department, donating to charity, abating graffiti and being kind to people in person and online.

He concluded by saying, “But we should all look in the mirror and ask what more we can do. Because tragedies like the death of Charlie Taylor are unacceptable. We can do better.”