FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Andres Raya Snapped

by ERIC RUDER

“HE WASN’T Andy anymore.” That’s how Araceli Valdez described watching a surveillance video showing her cousin Andres Raya–known to his friends and family as Andy–take an assault rifle and gun down two police officers outside a liquor store in Ceres, Calif.

Raya, a 19-year-old Marine on weekend leave from Camp Pendleton, had spent seven months in Iraq as a Humvee driver. On January 9, he snapped.

After opening fire on the two officers, he ran into an alley, telling residents, “Don’t worry, you’re a civilian. You won’t get hurt.” After a three-hour standoff, Raya charged a police position–and died after officers pumped 18 bullets into his body.

Press reports described the shootout as a moment of violence in the otherwise peaceful town of Ceres, where a police officer hasn’t been killed in the line of duty in at least 100 years. But the event quickly brought to the surface the simmering tensions between police and Latino residents.

And for a brief time, it linked a small California city to the killing fields of Iraq. “He came back different,” said Julia Raya, Andy’s mom. His death won’t appear in the list of soldiers killed in Iraq, but Andy was another casualty of Bush’s war.

Veterans’ advocates warn that Raya is among the early examples of a wave of soldiers who will return from the war in Iraq bearing invisible scars. “The [Department of Defense] is taking great care of the acutely injured–the injuries you can see, the burns, the lost arms and legs that they’re treating with state-of-the-art prosthetics,” Stephen Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, told Salon.com. “But they’re doing a horrible job with the other injuries that aren’t quite so evident.”

Raya’s family know that his experience in Iraq cost him his life. When he was home for Thanksgiving, he told family and friends that he had seen Marines commit suicide rather than continue fighting in Iraq. “He kept saying it was a war that had no point, that it was all for oil, and it made no sense that we were after bin Laden, but went after Saddam Hussein instead,” Andy’s cousin Alex Raya said. Other friends described how Andy had fallen asleep at a party, and when they shook him awake, he lunged for a gun that wasn’t there.

Police initially reported that Andy had committed “suicide by cop,” but later stressed that Raya had gang connections and that post-mortem tests showed cocaine in his system. “They have to say something bad,” said Andy’s uncle, Nicholas Cortez. “They can’t say something good because he killed one of their partners.”

The attempts to demonize Raya as a “gangbanger” further alienated Latinos in the city. Days earlier, grieving friends and other members of the community repeatedly tried to set up a shrine to Andy, only to have it removed each time by police.

The truth is that there will be more soldiers like Raya who bring the war home with them. Timothy McVeigh did. He served in the 1991 Gulf War as a gunner on a Bradley Fighting vehicle–helping to bulldoze surrendering Iraqi soldiers. In 1995, McVeigh committed mass murder again, killing 168 people when he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City.

In 2002, John Allen Muhammad–another veteran of the 1991 Gulf War who his wife believes suffered from Gulf War Syndrome–led his stepson on a shooting rampage in Washington, D.C., that took the lives of eight people.

Kaye Baron, a clinical psychologist in Colorado Springs, believes the military should take responsibility for its veterans. “I don’t understand why military mental health is not doing more given that we know combat takes a toll on soldiers and PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] is a widely recognized phenomenon,” said Baron. “I don’t know why they’re not being more thoroughly examined and diagnosed.”

One reason is the expense. Already, one in six soldiers returning from Iraq show symptoms of PTSD, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Some experts predict that the proportion will rise to one in three–and that more than 100,000 soldiers will require mental health treatment.

But despite the talk among the military brass about not abandoning veterans, little has changed since the Vietnam era, when soldiers who left the battlefield found that the battlefield hadn’t left them–and the military did nothing to help. Congress last year finally allocated new funds to deal with the crisis–but the $5 million a year over three years is drop in the bucket compared to the need.

While the U.S. government again abandons soldiers, the antiwar movement has take up their demands–calling for spending on adequate treatment and benefits and to bring them home now.

ERIC RUDER writes for the Socialist Worker.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail