This is the story of the last day of 17-year-old Quanice Hayes’s life. It involves a police department that says they have no good way of deciphering between real guns and fake ones, and a family still searching for answers.
A Teen and a Toy Gun
A Teen and a Toy Gun
Leah Sottile | Longreads | February 2018 | 33 minutes (8,200 words)
The night before Quanice Hayes was shot in the head by a police officer, the skinny 17-year-old was snapping selfies with his girlfriend in a seedy Portland, Oregon, motel room.
Bella Aguilar held her phone close when she clicked off the photos: In one, the 18-year-old girl pushes her tongue out through a smile, her boyfriend leaning over her right shoulder, lips pressed to her cheek, his dreads held back with one hand.
In another, Aguilar cradles her cheek against a black-and-sand-colored gun. It’s fake — the kind of air-powered toy that kids use to pop each other with plastic pellets in indoor arenas. Hayes peeks into the frame behind her.
If you know that the gun is fake, you see a snapshot of two kids playing tough; if you don’t, those photos looks like the beginning of a story about to go terribly wrong.
A few hours later, it did.
It was a cold night in February — a Wednesday. Aguilar and Hayes snapped photos and danced when friends came by the motel room where the couple had been crashing. They drank cough syrup and booze. There were pills and pot and a bag of coke.
They fired the toy gun at the motel’s dirty bathroom mirror, laughing when they couldn’t get the glass to break.
When the long night caught up with Aguilar and she lay down to pass out on the room’s queen-size bed, Hayes yanked on her arm, nagging her to stay awake. Two friends crashed on a pullout couch; two more were on the floor. But Hayes didn’t want to sleep. He walked outside.
Hours passed. The sun came up. Aguilar jolted awake and felt the bed next to her, but her boyfriend wasn’t there. His phone was — it sat on the table next to the bed. She felt frantic. Panicked. Confused. “I don’t know why, but it was that moment. I just felt really, really bad,” she said last summer, sitting outside a Portland Starbucks where she took drags from a Black and Mild.
She couldn’t remember why Hayes had left. She couldn’t remember so much of the night.
She frantically tapped out a text to her boyfriend’s mother, Venus: Do you know where Quanice is?Continue reading “A Teen and a Toy Gun”