In 2010, 19-year-old John Anczarski joined friends and began riding his bicycle across the United States.
The former Eagle Scout, published poet, and honor society student was in his second year of an engineering program at the University of Colorado.
And, John and friends were not riding for personal glory.
Instead, they rode daily to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research through an initiative called "The Pink Pedal."
In June of that year, John's ride and life ended much too soon while cycling when he was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by Gilbert Waconda in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico.
Because the collision occurred on tribal lands, tribal police investigated.
The accident scene was examined, witness statements were taken, evidence was collected, and the case file was given to a Federal prosecutor for review--since state authorities do not have jurisdiction on tribal lands.
But last week, a year-and-a-half after young Anczarski's death, Federal authorities announced that they would not pursue charges in the case.
Now, it would be unfair for me to criticize the US Attorney's Office for not prosecuting the felony charges against the driver since so little is known about the case.
Instead, I'll applaud the Tribal Police and thier local prosecuting attorney who made a meaningful announcement as well: they will pursue prosecution.
But, there is one problem.
A large problem.
Tribal authorities are only permitted to prosecute crimes as misdemeanors--meaning that the most punishment that Mr. Waconda could receive is one-year in the local jail.
Despite this, Laguna Pueblo Police Chief Michelle Ray had this to say to the victim's family:
"I want them to know that we haven’t stopped investigating this, we haven't stopped working on this, and something will happen with Mr. Waconda..."
Glad to hear that someone is fighting for victims and their families.
What if he the driver is convicted for vehicular homicide and sentenced to a whopping 365 days in jail?
That would be a clear example of the American Criminal Injustice System.
Either way, I would hope that Mr. Waconda would become the most charitable individual in Laguna Pueblo.
That he grows from this experience and dedicates his life in service to others.
A terrible mistake that could be the starting point of something positive.