By SCOTT W. COLEMAN
Scott W. Coleman is editor of the Hill Country News and associate editor of Four Points News.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Steiner Ranch Elementary teacher Peggy Howard and her son, Cale, who would have graduated from Vandegrift High School this spring, as well as to the entire Leander ISD community.
Whenever such a senseless tragedy like this one occurs, especially during a holiday period, while the community at large grieves, many seek answers in an attempt to determine if the tragic events could have been prevented.
To wit, much is being made of the Twitter posts attributed to Wyzykowski, found by a parent who searched out Wyzykowski’s social media accounts after learning the identity of the person who crashed into the Toyota Prius driven by Peggy Howard. These posts reportedly include numerous photos of alcohol and alcohol-influenced partying. While in hindsight, these posts might seem an ominous warning about someone who might be a danger, in my view, the alcohol-fueled vigor of a partying college student isn’t what would have worried me.
After all, not all who drink — even to excess — will get behind the wheel of an automobile. Instead, there were plenty of other disturbing warning signs in Wyzykowski’s past which point to the kind of attitude that would result not only in his getting behind the wheel of an automobile while clearly intoxicated, but driving on a busy roadway at nearly 100 miles an hour while impaired, and would later result in an official report of his demeanor following an accident that caused the deaths of two people and significant injury to several more, as “cocky” and “indifferent.”
Wyzykowski was arrested back in October 2012, while a student at the University of Alabama, for domestic violence. It wasn’t Wyzykowski’s first poor decision that resulted in contact with law enforcement. Police records show that while living in West Austin with his parents, Wyzykowski’s mother called police when Wyzykowski, who was 17 at the time, threatened to kill and then attempted to strangle his own brother after an argument over the use of a computer.
Those incidents concern me far more than the alcohol-laden posts of a college student. It seems clear from Wyzykowski’s attitude on the night of the accident that he was completely unconcerned with the damage he had inflicted on the lives of others. It also seems clear that he demonstrated a lack of concern for others dating back several years.
Clearly, this tragedy was avoidable. But, the greater question to me is, what can — and should — we as parents, teachers, and the community at large do when someone repeatedly demonstrates violent tendencies and might even seem unstable?
Should we have to wait until a tragic incident occurs to then look back at the history and realize someone could have seen a bad situation in the making? What, if anything, should we do? And, do we have the right to do anything at all?
I certainly don’t have the answers, but it’s time we started asking the questions.