Nearly 500 people, most of them high school students in Bristol, have joined a fast-growing new Justice for Henry Waye group online that seeks the arrest of “the jerk” who “killed a kid because he made the choice to drink and drive.”
“His death was so tragic and the way he passed away was so needless,” the group’s organizer, Alesia Ervin, a 2007 Bristol Central High School graduate, said Tuesday.
She said she wanted to get the word out that people died “when you drink and drive recklessly.”
A Central freshman, 14-year-old Henry Waye, Jr, died March 5 when a hit-and-run driver on George Street plowed into him and kept on going. The boy died a few hours later.
Police say alcohol was a factor in the accident but have not filed charges against the driver, Robert Park. Park, who is in rehabilitation, has been unavailable for comment.
Mariana Velez Escobar, a Central freshman said Tuesday this is a “time of confusion and frustration” for her classmates who “hope there will be a consequence for this man’s actions.”
Nicole Mitchell, another Central freshman, said Monday that she joined the new Facebook group “because people need to stop drinking and driving.”
Another Central freshman, Megan Swenton, said Monday she knew Waye “and I really want there to be justice for him.”
Ervin said she never expected the number of people in her group to “go that high and so fast” when she set it up last weekend.
She said she chose to establish the group on Facebook because “there’s lot of kids out there who have Facebook accounts” and the system itself ensures that friends will learn about new groups their friends join, which helps spread the word.
Katelyn Mill, a Central junior, said Monday that Waye was “a good kid. He always had a smile on his face and he didn’t deserve to die the way he did or at his age.”
“Henry deserves justice to the stupid man who struck him,” Mill said, adding that she completely supports the effort to make sure the driver faces charges.
Amy Masi, a junior at Bristol Eastern High School, said Monday that she signed up for the group even though she never knew Waye.
“I feel somehow connected to him through feeling of loss,” she said. “I know what it feels like to lose someone close to you, so I joined the group to support all those who were extremely close to Henry.”
“My heart is with them through their pain,” Masi said.
Catherine Boyce, an Eastern sophomore, said Monday she didn’t know Waye but “can only hope that the man who killed him will be found and punished for his actions.”
“He now will have to live with the fact that he killed an innocent life, which would be enough to make me turn myself in if I were him,” she said. “I could never live with such guilt.”
“I joined this group because i find that it is unbelievable that the police have not arrested the man who committed such a heinous crime,” Eastern senior Cameron Aiken said Monday.
“If the police have evidence and know for a fact that” Park was responsible, Aiken asked, “Why hasn’t he been arrested yet?”
Aiken said that Waye’s father and sister must feel awful because Park “hasn’t been brought to justice.”
“It’ll bring closure and a little relief to his family by bringing this man to justice,” Aiken said.
Police say they are making sure they build a careful case against the driver so that they can charge him with the most serious possible offense and ensure his conviction. It may be several months or more before charges are filed.
In the meantime, Park’s truck has been seized and searched for forensic evidence that might tie it to the crime. Police found Park at his home not long after the accident, drunk and suicidal, according to Mayor Art Ward’s account of what police told him.
A number of people on the group’s website said they would like to see the community take a harsher stance against drinking and driving.
“There’s just a lot of crazy drivers who need to be brought to justice,” said Jessica Ceballos, a Central junior whose cousin was hit by a car last year and badly hurt.
Ervin said that she hopes everyone learns a lesson from this tragedy – to “think before you drink.”
Mitchell said that “maybe they should make worse punishments for drinking and driving.”
“I hope all the people in Bristol can learn to be better, safer drivers seeing what the end results of reckless driving can be,” said Escobar.
How to join the group
Follow this link.
Note: This story was updated on Tuesday at 2:20 p.m., replacing the initial version.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org