Mylo’s loved ones formed a circle around his grave. They held hands and sent up prayers with fragrant smoke from burning sage.
Uncle Joe Henry sang sacred words. His rawhide drum throbbed like an aching heart. On that day, exactly four years had passed since mourners had walked Mylo to this place. The time had come to help the young man finish his journey.
“Justice is done. Walk in the light now and let the healing begin,” Joe said.
Instead of heading to trial, Mylo’s family and their attorneys took a suggestion from Judge Martinez and attempted to settle the case. The federal mediator negotiated a way for both sides to claim a type of victory.
Bob Christie, the attorney hired by the city, called after I wrote about the settlement. He had spent years gearing up for a fight that wasn’t going to happen. Although he was confident police wouldn’t be blamed for the teen’s death, Christie acknowledged there was a risk jurors could decide that the officers used excessive force. In particular, he said there could be questions about one officer’s decision to begin striking Mylo with a metal baton during the early stages of the struggle. If a jury found improper use of force, the city would have had to pay out far more than the $500,000 that settled the case.
Mylo’s people saw it differently.
The settlement they won paid largely for lawyers. Instead, the family got something nobody at the city of Everett had offered for four years: a genuine expression of remorse over Mylo’s death and a promise to try to learn from it.
Within days of the settlement, Police Chief Jim Scharf invited me to come to talk with him about Mylo’s case. He told me how much his officers hoped to avoid finding themselves in another similar struggle. I wasn’t surprised, because these are good people.
Nor was I caught off guard when he said some of his officers asked him to let them consult with experts about ways to possibly save other lives in similar confrontations.
I knew change was coming. Everett cops I’ve known for decades still trusted me. They understood why I needed to ask questions about Mylo. Our conversations about police work and newspaper work have been going on for too long to stop altogether.
“I’m sorry about the death of Mylo Harvey,” Scharf told me. “At the same time, I’m sorry that my officers were in the position they had to deal with that. But any situation where there is loss of life is tragic.”
I shared Scharf’s apology with Mylo’s family, and then in the story I wrote for the newspaper about the steps Everett police planned to take to prevent another death.
Scharf’s apology echoed as Donna Cooper stood at her grandson’s grave, telling her family how proud she was. Each had played a role, supporting one another through the tough times, never turning back from what needed to be done.
Mylo has a kind of justice, she said.
“We got one ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘We’ll try to do better in the future.’ It comes too late for our loved one. But maybe it will help somebody else’s family. I pray that is true.”
Then she spoke directly to Mylo. She told him his family would be fine; that he’d always be remembered and loved, but his home was now in heaven.
“So go with God now, my dear,” she said in a soft voice. “We love you so much.”
The family released eight balloons into the sky; seven white and one red in the shape of a heart. The balloons rose slowly, a cold wind pushing them west over the slate-colored waters of Tulalip Bay.
I stood near the circle; an observer, connected but apart, at the distance where a journalist finds truth.
I remembered another time, an earlier visit to Mylo’s grave. On that day, Donna had spoken to me at length about her family, how she feared for some now scarred by this grief, how she’d seen them pull together.
“Everything comes around in a circle, and now it is time,” she said. “In my thoughts, Mylo is waiting for us to complete the journey we have been on. I have tried to stay strong for my family, for this time, but you never forget. You always have the pain. It doesn’t go away.”
Donna went silent for a time.
When she spoke again, it was about choices and how no matter what, we are responsible for the things we do; the good and the bad.
One by one, she pointed to the nearby graves of relatives and friends. She was a good cook. He was a master carver. Then she pointed to the grass beneath our feet. One day, she said, she and the rest of her family would be brought to this place, to rest forever. With Mylo. With the things that they had done. With the things they had not.
More silence. No need to speak.
Thinking about eternity takes time.
We parted with a hug.
“I’ve learned from you,” I told Donna.
“We have to learn from each other,” she said.