Soon after that day, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I would have 2 or 3 seizures a day, altogether having 20 seizures a month.
I was soon diagnosed with complex partial, simple partial, and nocturnal seizures. At times I would have just the auras without a seizure following. I can have seizure activity anywhere on my left temporal, occipital, and frontal lobe. But my left temporal lobe is where the activity mostly comes from. The longest I have been seizure free was 10 months and 4 weeks. Around that time, I was starting to have tons of breakthrough seizures. I was already trying my 6th medication at that time.
Altogether I have tried and failed 6 different medications—Keppra, Tegratol, Topamax, Lamictal, Depakote, and Dilantin—along with a rescue medication, Ativan. It seemed like the auras were constant. We decided late in that we needed to get a second opinion in order for me to improve my quality of life and start living a better life. Uncontrolled, drug resistant epilepsy. We decided that VNS therapy would be the best option on top of the 6 pills a day I take. The historic buildings downtown are filling with tech start-ups, boutiques peddling handmade jeans and nightspots with seven-ingredient cocktails.
But little of this good fortune has spilled over into East Oakland, where Richard lived, a region of grinding poverty and chronic violence. And that was a big part of it for me. The fact that I was questioning my gender meant that I was genderqueer. Karl, a college-radio D. Debbie, a bookkeeper at a private school, is more emotional and effusive.
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But this is harder for me to understand. They were also more likely to have been harassed or assaulted. Since preschool, Sasha had attended small, alternative schools, where challenging gender norms was unremarkable. Maybeck High School, with just more than students, had two who were transgender and two, including Sasha, who identified as agender. In this world, quirkiness was not just accepted but encouraged. Sasha started wearing a skirt in January , accepting three hand-me-downs from a friend.
But Sasha loved the sartorial gender-mashup that came from adding a skirt to the vest and bow tie. Shy and introverted, their child had always excelled at being invisible. Now the teenager was not just visible but conspicuous — a boy in a skirt. Instead of bashfulness, Sasha exhibited a newfound confidence.
Still, Debbie and Karl worried that publicly flouting gender norms could be dangerous — even in the liberal Bay Area. Karl was once beaten up while jogging in Berkeley by some men in a pickup truck who thought he was gay. For a long time these fears seemed to be groundless. And so when Sasha drifted into sleep on the 57 bus on Nov. When Richard Thomas boarded the bus that day, he was a junior at Oakland High School, his third school in as many years.
While it draws Asian, Latino and African-American students from throughout the city, the school is spurned by the white families who live nearby. The house, a single-story white-stucco bungalow, was clean and snug and sparsely furnished, decorated with framed photos of family. A food-service worker at a residential care facility, Jasmine sent Richard to Oakland High because she thought it offered a better academic and social environment than the high school in her own neighborhood.
Like Debbie Crandall, she worried about what the world could do to her child.
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She had Richard when she was only 15, splitting up with his father, Richard Sr. She wanted her son to attend college and to have a career. These were big dreams in her part of town. An investigation by The San Francisco Chronicle found that of some black male students who start at Oakland high schools as freshmen each year, only about end up graduating and fewer than graduate with the requirements needed to attend a California state college or university.
The odds of landing in the back of a police cruiser, on the other hand, are much better. And each year, dozens of black men and boys are murdered within the city limits. From a young age, Richard lost family and friends to violence. In addition to his aunt Savannah, killed in a spray of bullets while sitting in a car in San Francisco, his aunt Tish was murdered by her boyfriend in Three of his childhood friends were murdered as well, most recently his best friend, Tyronta Mickens. People used to say Richard and Tyronta were twins, because they were both handsome, light-skinned boys with a goofy sense of humor and a penchant for practical jokes.
When Richard was 14, the two were sent to a group home in Redding, after they were involved in a fight with some skateboarders. Because Richard was a juvenile, the details of the case are sealed. Tyronta was released before Richard, but shortly after that, on Jan. Instead of hanging up, Richard just put the phone down and walked away. Richard came back to Oakland that summer, heading into his junior year. He signed up for a summer-job training program conducted by the Unity Council, an Oakland nonprofit, which led to an internship.
His supervisors noted how much effort he put in, sometimes redoing the sloppy work of others. But when school started, Richard struggled.
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He fell behind academically and began cutting school. When Wilson told him that she had to escort him back to class, Richard came along cheerfully, peppering her with questions. Wilson explained that she ran an intervention program for students who were chronically absent from school. Wilson was taken aback. Some of them even called her Mom, bringing her their grades, photographs and artwork to hang on her walls and writing her apologies when they ran into trouble. He would confide in her about his life. When other kids were there, he would often draw them out, listening to their problems. He liked to give and receive hugs and was known for his silly, childlike sense of humor, his willingness to look foolish if it would get a laugh.
He wanted his mother to know that he was doing everything he could to get on the right path. Yet Richard was apprehensive.
He was having trouble understanding his schoolwork and wanted to be tested for learning disabilities. He was worried about graduating. And the violence around him was pressing in. That fall, another friend, this one from Oakland High, was shot. At the end of October, while walking to the store in an unfamiliar neighborhood with his cousin Gerald, Richard was robbed at gunpoint by two teenage boys who took his money, his phone, his coat and his shoes.
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In the moment, he told Wilson, he had only one thing on his mind: surviving. But later, he kept thinking about one of the robbers, whom Richard knew and had thought of as a friend. He felt betrayed. Richard skipped school for a few days after that. On the afternoon of Nov.
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Before leaving for the bus stop, Richard gave Collins a hug. Every Alameda County transit bus is equipped with cameras that continuously record sound and video from multiple vantage points. Before me was a grid of 12 views that could be watched simultaneously or one at a time. The video itself, grainy and impersonal, conveys the ordinariness of the afternoon. Passengers look at their phones or peer through the scratched windows at the darkening streets outside.
On the video, Richard and Lloyd board the bus at the front. Richard, wearing an orange-brimmed New York Knicks hat, is quiet and smiling. The heavyset Lloyd is loud and rambunctious — bouncing, shouting, trying to get the attention of a girl at the front. After using his bus pass, Lloyd catches sight of a tall boy in a white hoodie sitting near the back and heads his way.
Richard later told his lawyer and his mother that the whole thing was meant to be a prank. He thought the fabric would smolder for a moment, and Sasha would wake up and slap out the spark, startled but uninjured.
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