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Jeb Bladine: Reckless moments can devastate lives

Last month, nine months following his graduation from McMinnville High School, a young man walked out of WinCo Foods with $3 worth of stolen candy bars. When confronted by the loss prevention officer and other employees, he elbowed and  kicked and reached for a holstered pistol.

He only wanted to see if it still was there, the man said later, but we’ll never know what might have happened if one of the employees had not blocked his arm. The justice system now must determine what level of threat the man represents to others.

It’s sad when a momentary loss of judgment has tragic consequences. It’s sad for the victims, of course, but also for the wrongdoers whose lives are turned upside down in an instant.

We see it most clearly in high-profile news stories. However, varying degrees of that sadness can be sensed between the small-type lines from hundreds of public record notices we publish every year.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

People do thoughtless or downright stupid things that put themselves and/or others at risk. Most of us have had close calls that fell short of devastating consequences by a matter of seconds, or inches.

The stakes rise when those acts become criminal. Sorrow for perpetrators wanes when victims lose their lives, their livelihood, or suffer permanent injuries. But lifetime regrets, incarceration and shattered dreams also are real consequences.

Last May, two young men succumbed to the lures of ego and adrenaline in speed-racing their Mitsubishi sports cars on 99W just north of McMinnville. One of them lost control, slammed into an oncoming van, killing the driver, and sent his then-19-year-old girlfriend into a medical nightmare that continues today.

Seven years ago, the young racer was playing baseball for Amity High School; last month, claiming no memory of the speed-racing incident, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The young woman may never return home.

The second youthful driver, who remained at the scene uninjured, remembers it all too well. He will have six years in prison, then the rest of his life, to dwell on the human devastation that followed one reckless night in 2016. The grief, blame, regrets and forgiveness related to that event have seeped into the consciousness of thousands of readers. We hope those images become a reminder for others to think twice before doing something similarly destructive.

As so often repeated here over the years, be careful out there.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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