Column: Think choices don’t count? Ask Sam Bravo and his victim

When Samuel Bravo, Astin Whitesinger and Andrew Granados decided to invade a Kingman home one year ago Friday, I said to myself: These boys are going to be tried as adults and they are going to go to prison.

And good riddance.

Then I started to look at it from a less emotional standpoint. Whitesinger was the only adult, 18 at the time. Bravo was the youngest at 15. He also was the ringleader.

I thought, if there was anything redeemable in these boys’ lives, a stretch in prison will beat it right out of them. They’re toast. Their future ruined by choices they made.

And then I went back to the emotional side of things and I didn’t put myself in the bad kids’ shoes, but in the shoes of their victim.

I put my wife’s face on the woman they terrorized that night. I put my dog’s face on the dog they injured that night. I thought to myself, a man might want to take things into his own hands if this happened to his family.

Of all the fears we Americans live with, and we seem to find more of them every day, armed strangers with bad intentions busting into our homes has to be on everyone’s top 10 list. Statistically, there is very low probability of this ever happening, but random home invasions do occur.

Would I want a 15 year old who did this to my family to go to prison? Yes. I would want a 15 year old to go to prison for siphoning gas out of my Ford. Not that I think siphoning gas is the worst kind of crime, I just don’t like to be victimized.

When I was in college, I came home one night to find two men burglarizing my home. Nobody got hurt, but nobody got caught, either.

When I was in high school, I worked at a pizza joint. One Friday night I was working the register in the middle of a rush. A man came in and pointed a sawed off shotgun in my face and demanded $25.

He was very specific and I was very attentive. Two 20s stuck together and I took the time to peel them apart, put one back in the till, grabbed a five and gave him his money.

He got caught. When I testified at his trial, the bad guy looked defeated. He looked frail. He had been in trouble since he came home from Vietnam.

He got 30 years in Texas’ notorious Huntsville prison. I sometimes think about that man 40 years later. I mostly remember the abject fear I experienced looking straight into the barrel of that Remington 12 gauge.

Those are the only two times I’ve been a victim of crime, and both memories, while ancient, stick with me like glue.

So when I learned Sam Bravo was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in an Arizona prison last week, I felt bad for his mom and his sisters and his stepdad and anyone else who loves this boy.

But I don’t feel sorry for him. At 15 we might not have our heads screwed on as tight as they need to be, but we know the difference between right and wrong.

I think of the woman they thought so little of that they threatened to rape her. They injured her dog. They forced her to drive them to the bank ATM and made her withdraw cash for them.

And then Bravo, not satisfied with the night’s felonious activity, decided to shoot the woman. We don’t know if the gun went off accidentally and a round grazed her arm. We don’t know if he pulled the trigger with malice aforethought but couldn’t handle his nerves so the shot was off. We should all be grateful Bravo was not the coldblooded killer he was pretending to be.

That woman will be forever haunted by the events of Jan. 27, 2016. Here’s hoping Bravo and his friends spend their time behind bars thinking about choices and how important it is to make the right ones.