He sat feet from where an officer opened fire twice, hitting his son in the chest. A father who crossed the Rio Grande decades ago sat under his home’s American flag – an emblem he still loves, believes in, and cherishes.
Oscar Urbina dreamed of raising his family in America. His two boys and wife lived in a pristine Prince William neighborhood, surrounded by smart townhomes, sun-splashed streets and new two-story houses.
But Urbina said the dream he once knew ended Friday, when his 15-year-old son Rúben became angry, called 911, grabbed a crowbar from the garage and failed to obey police commands. He was shot dead.
Prince William’s top prosecutor, Paul B. Ebert, said the responding police officer’s fatal use of force was justified. But the Urbina Family vehemently disputes law enforcement’s version of events, with Oscar Urbina penning an open letter to the officer who killed his son.
“I was lying in pain in agony on the second day of this accident, this tragedy,” Urbina said in an interview Thursday. “There was something inside of me so powerful…Even today I still don’t know why, other than God giving me a message for this police officer.”
He woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
In the darkness, Urbina remembered his youngest son was gone, went to his computer, and titled his thoughts, “A Letter of Forgiveness.” Urbina hopes the Prince William police officer who opened fire will read it, and perhaps somehow, someday, become part of his family.
“God, Jesus Christ, has granted me the strength and courage to forgive you,” Urbina wrote. “By forgiving you, our family will heal slowly.”
But Urbina’s wounds and raw grief were still plain to see within the paragraphs. He unequivocally assigned guilt to the officer, a man who has been cleared of wrongdoing.
“The difference between you and us is that… you are GUILTY,” Urbina wrote. “Our baby is innocent.”
“Your [sic] are GUILTY on [sic] God’s court of law.”
Family members who gathered at the Haymarket home still didn’t understand nearly a week later why police used fatal force to subdue the teenager. Rúben stood just over five feet tall.
Relatives held up their hands and flicked their index fingers, showing how they could effortlessly knock the teenager over.
But in a news conference on Tuesday, authorities painted a darker picture of a student who tried to kill himself the night before – who told 911 dispatchers the next morning that he would have no issue with police shooting him.
“He didn’t want to commit suicide,” Oscar Urbina said. “My sister said she wanted to kill herself when she couldn’t see a boy when we were kids. It was nothing serious.”
Tasers were not deployed, and Prince William Police did not disclose whether the responding officer was carrying a stun gun on Friday morning. Authorities said the issue of a stun gun was a moot point, with the teen considered a danger to officers’ lives.
Two officers responded to the 911 call within minutes, and faced a litany of potential threats:
A possible hostage situation with the teen’s mother, a possible bomb strapped to his chest, the teen seen beating his brother’s girlfriend with a three-foot crowbar, and the student failing to obey at least five commands to drop the weapon.
"We've seen the letter but also understand the family is grieving right now,” Sgt. Jonathan L. Perok, a Prince William police spokesman, said Thursday. “The officer gave multiple commands which Ruben ignored and the officer took the action he felt was needed after being presented with that threat also not knowing if an explosive was on him or not.”
The two narratives may never be fully reconciled.
It remains unclear if the officer who fired two shots has seen the letter.
The 15-year-old is now buried, with his family planning to meet with staffers from Rep. Barbara Comstock’s office (R-Va.) Friday to discuss the shooting.
“I still have faith in law enforcement, faith in my country, faith in good people,” Urbina said. “But my life is destroyed. I need people to know that. I need to somehow make this right.”
Below is the full text of Urbina’s letter to the Prince William officer.
No edits have been made to correct for spelling or grammar:
A Letter of Forgiveness
When you chose to be a police officer as your career, you were made to sworn to SERVE AND PROCTECT.
I don’t know if u have kids or not. If you do, you may or may not know how hard and horrifying it is to live without them for a single day.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding my child death….he didn’t do anything wrong…you did.
He is innocent…your are GUILTY on God’s court of Law.
You can trick your mind telling it that you followed “PROTOCOL AND GUIDELINES”
Let me explain; you as a full grown adult, could have made the decision to subdue my child by using a taser. He was just a skinny little boy with a crowbar ten feet away from you. Perfect distance for pepper spray or a taser. Instead, you chose to shoot and kill him.
This fact and reality will stay with you, your wife and your kids for the rest of your life. Your family and kids will always know that your actions destroyed a God fearing family by taking our baby from us way too early. We have been saving money for his education for 15 years.
Our grief for our baby will remain with us for the rest of our lives.
The difference between you and us is that…you are GUILTY. Our baby is innocent.
God, Jesus Christ, has granted me the strength and courage to forgive you.
By forgiving you, our family will heal slowly.
I pray with all my heart that you, will never have to experience this all consuming, never ending pain.