"About the same time Steven left home that night, a 22-year-old police officer with less than one year experience got the call that there was a 'possible prowler' at someone’s house. He headed in the same direction as Steven at a high rate of speed ..."
Another piece by Brenda Ehrensperger: If Only
Steven's Last Day Here
Alabama—I often told my son Steven that if before he was born, God had given me a pencil and paper and told me to write about the son I wanted, it would have been him. I was blessed by sharing his life for almost 21 years, until on the night of November 28, 2007, when a young police officer made several bad decisions that cost Steven his life.
My son’s last day was a good one. His college classes had ended by midday and it was his best friend Tyler’s birthday. They did some of their favorite things that day — played football, went to a movie, just hung out and talked as they often did. Steven left us a lot of messages that were to help us endure the terrible times ahead in his last conversations with Tyler. He told Tyler he was not afraid to die and, if the time came, he was ready. He even told Tyler the clothes he wanted to be buried in when the time came. This along with some recent conversations I had with Steven makes me feel that he almost sensed something was going to happen.
The guys ended their day with Tyler’s family getting together at the bowling alley. From what I hear, Steven was on the top of his game that night (he loved to win). Steven had his girlfriend Kimi at his side, so he was truly happy. About 10:30 pm we called Steven. He said he was heading home but wanted to know if he could spend the night with Tyler. Steven came home, picked up his XBOX 360 controller, sent Kimi a text message saying he loved her, came into our bedroom to kiss me goodnight, and told me he loved me. He walked out the door and five minutes later he was dead, killed less than a mile from home.
I followed my husband David downstairs but could go no further than the kitchen. As the man dressed in plain clothes walked into our den, I simply said “Please tell me he is not dead.” He looked at me and said he was sorry.
Steven: Through the Years ...
From Baby Boy in Dad's arms to ...
... high school graduate.
And so the nightmare began.
First the ultimate nightmare of losing our child, then the nightmare of dealing with a system that prohibits you from knowing the facts surrounding your child’s death; a system that makes you wait for six months to learn if your child died immediately or suffered for some period of time; a system where responsible parties are too afraid of legal action to have the common decency to say they are sorry.
About the same time Steven left home that night, a 22-year-old police officer with less than one year experience got the call that there was a “possible prowler” at someone’s house. He headed in the same direction as Steven at a high rate of speed reportedly with lights and siren on.
The police car approached Steven’s car from behind, overtaking him quickly since Steven had not reached cruising speed. There was a clear line of vision for a long distance for the officer to see Steven’s car. Steven’s view would have only been that of a police car with lights flashing in his rear view mirror.
Steven, thinking he was being signaled to pull over, could not have known the police officer approaching from behind him was traveling at such a high rate of speed and was about to pass him in a no passing zone, made a left turn into a lighted church parking lot. Steven had no other option since there was no place to turn to the right. As Steven entered the church driveway he was struck in his driver’s side door by the police car. The impact was so great that Steven’s seatbelt fully extended and snapped unable to prevent him from slamming into the opposite side of the car. His legs were trapped underneath the crushed metal that was once his door.
"The world is also diminished in my eyes because I have tasted the bitterness that comes from having the most tragic event of your life treated coldly and without regard by those whose primary concern is to avoid accountability. A sincere 'I’m sorry your son died' from those responsible, and more responsiveness on the part of our public officials, would have gone a long way." —Brenda H. Ehrensperger
The Horrible Wait for Answers
He was my son – I had a right to know what the injuries were that took his life. The coroner promised he would go over the results of the autopsy when they were available. Instead, an envelope showed up in our mail box. My husband David and I stood in our kitchen and slowly opened the envelope. The report was staggering. Steven’s injuries were far greater than anything we had imagined. Multiple skull fractures and brain injuries, 10 broken ribs, ruptured aorta, and every major organ damaged.
No parent should ever have to read the results of an autopsy on their child as my husband and I did. Our beautiful, healthy son’s body had simply been destroyed internally. Because Steven’s brain was severed from his spinal cord, I felt sure he did not suffer.
Six months was a long time to wait for that answer but nobody seemed to care. Steven’s injuries bore witness to the violence of the impact and speed at which the police car was traveling when it struck his car.
Because the crash involved a police officer from a municipality, state troopers were in charge of the investigation. We were initially told the investigation would take about two weeks. Then we were told a month. We learned that the rear tail light bulbs from Steven’s car were missing. Who had taken them? We had recently had the car serviced so we knew he had lights. Virtually no information was provided to us as the investigation proceeded. Our son had died and we knew very little about why it happened. Nobody was talking to us. Finally, at the end of May, six months after Steven’s death, we learned the homicide report was finished and sent to the state capitol for approval.
Even though we had been told we could see the report once approved, that was not the case. The case was going before a grand jury so we were still not allowed see the report. A county grand jury met on August 11, 2008, and voted not to indict the police officer. We were not allowed to know what was said at the hearing or what evidence was presented. Our son’s life was sacrificed and we were not allowed to know the rationale for not holding the officer who caused his death accountable. It is our understanding, however, that there was no specific estimation of the speed of the police car mentioned at the hearing.
And Still We Miss Him