Your 13-year-old son is on a soccer trip, minding his own business in a Raleigh hotel, when a bullet pierces the wall of the hotel room and kills him. The man next door fired a shot for reasons yet unclear. What is clear is that Randall Louis Vater of Knightdale, the man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case, should never have had a gun.
As a convicted felon, Vater is not allowed to own one. He has been convicted – 28 times! – of assault, felony hit-and-run, domestic violence, driving while impaired. Most recently, he had been in jail for six months for violating a domestic violence protective order. He got out Oct. 25.
Nathan Andrew Clark of Lewisville was 13 years old. He was in town to play in a soccer event. That’s all. He was also in line to become an Eagle Scout.
The question on the minds not just of every parent but of every law-abiding citizen who knows of this incident is: What in the world was someone with Vater’s criminal history doing out of jail in the first place?
Presumably, Ned Mangum, a judge serving as Wake County’s acting district attorney, will answer that question as this case proceeds. There are nuances in the law and in sentencing that don’t ensure that every habitual criminal is put in a throw-away-the-key jail. But this man’s record seems to call for long-term incarceration.
The random nature of what happened is most troubling for the victim’s parents, who as of Friday afternoon thought their son was playing soccer and would be home soon. They will be burdened not just with the loss of their child but also with the happenstance of all that surrounded his death.
The hearts of all go out to them. And the questions remain.