His smile was infectious. He was a sweetheart of a boy, very likeable. He was eleven when I met him. He was on my soccer team. I was his coach. I knew we would have fun together during the season. He had a very calm demeanor about him.
One day he wasn’t practice and I called his mother to find out if he was ok. She said no he had been airlifted by flight for life to the hospital. He was in a diabetic coma. I met the family there and stayed for a couple of hours. When he came to, I was there and told him he gave us all quite a scare. I walked over and hugged him. He said thanks coach and gave me his smile.
I coached Ben for six years until he turned seventeen. I watched him turn from and awkward preteen cute as a button, to a confident, good looking young man. One night he called me and asked if I would do him a favor. I said anything for you Ben. He asked me to be a reference for him as he had applied for a job at Chuck E Cheese. I told him I would be honored to be a reference for him. I gave him a great reference and he got the job, he called me back and said thanks coach. He said love you coach because by then he was like a son to me.
In December 1992, I was getting ready for bed and the news came on with breaking news. There was a shooting at Chuck E Cheese in Aurora, CO. They listed the victims names and Ben was amongst the victims. My heart sunk to my stomach. He was in the hospital in critical condition. Ben wasn’t supposed to work that night. He was called in because someone had called in sick.
The next morning I was at the hospital with the family tears in my eyes. I wanted to know the condition of my adopted son. His mother came out and said they were all going in shortly as a family and invited me to join them. I did. I was given fifteen minutes alone with Ben, I held his hand and stroked hair, kissed on his cheek. I told him I loved him as my tears rolled down my cheeks.
We all went into Ben’s room and removed him from life support. We stayed with Ben for the remaining twenty minutes of his life.
The police caught suspect Nathan Dunlap. He was charged with four counts of murder and armed robbery. He was tried and convicted on another armed robbery charge before he went on trial for the Chuck E Cheese trial. The reason there was no…