senseless is the word that best describes the christmas eve shooting death of bluffton, south carolina resident carlos alberto olivera.
a little after 8 pm on the night before christmas, the 34-year-old businessman and his family stopped by his brother's house to drop off christmas presents. his fatal mistake was parking the family minivan in a neighborhood with strict rules against on-street parking.
less than 10 minutes later, following a heated confrontation with a 27-year-old tow truck driver named preston oates, olivera's lifeless body lay crumpled in the street. according to multiple witnesses, oates laughed and shouted “feliz navidad” to the olivera family as he was led away for questioning. (see story on page 12.)
privacy advocates condemn the invasive nature of social media like facebook and myspace since users are encouraged to share any and all information about themselves with an ever-expanding circle of friends and acquaintances.
there are valid concerns about how this personal information may be exploited for criminal intent, but these postings have also becoming increasingly important to law enforcement officials involved in criminal investigations.
when a 24-year-old drifter named lee harvey oswald assassinated president john f. kennedy back in 1963, it took investigators months to piece together his psychological profile and to this day, oswald's motive for the attack has never been fully established.
but within hours of last month's tucson, arizona shooting rampage that left six people dead and us congresswoman gabrielle giffords and 12 others wounded, investigators began examining photographs, text messages and videos posted on the internet by the alleged killer, 22-year-old jared loughner. this information gave them a detailed look inside the mind of an obviously disturbed young man.
in the same way, internet records and social media have made it easy for people who had never heard of preston oates to compose a fairly detailed profile of a young bluffton businessman who apparently enjoyed living his life in the fast lane and suffered few, if any, consequences when he broke the law.
an examination of oates' criminal record reveals dozens of incident reports for crimes ranging from misdemeanors like possession of marijuana and selling alcohol without a license to more serious charges like assault with intent to kill and discharging firearms into a dwelling. remarkably, oates always managed to escape prosecution when brought up on these charges.
in examining his myspace page, we start with oates' myspace avatar (the image used by a computer user to represent his persona). oates uses a young boy poised on a skateboard at the top of an impossibly steep hill. his caption reads "hey guys watch this!!!"
included in oates' personal information (some of which has since been deleted from the page) are photographs of racist signs that denigrate hispanics as well as this boast under the topic about me: "i'm the wild one in this town. i don't hold back and i don't care what people think."
a video posted on the site shows oates firing a huge .50 caliber rifle as well as a variety of nightclub photos taken from vacation trips to russia, ukraine, and amsterdam. one photo, apparently taken while oates was vacationing on the carribean island of st. maarten, shows a police boat with a caption that reads: "i leave the country and blue lights still follow me."
this case has generated a great deal of concern among hispanics, especially after beaufort county sheriff p.j. tanner allowed oates to spend the christmas holiday weekend with friends and family before finally arresting him three days later and charging him with voluntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
manslaughter was definitely not the charge that olivera's family was hoping for, not after witnesses said oates pumped four bullets into olivera's back and finished him off execution-style with a final bullet fired from close-range into his head.
and yes, this is the same sheriff p.j. tanner who made headlines in 2008 after he initiated "operation surge", a program whose stated goal was the deportation of any undocumented immigrant booked into the beaufort county jail. a "criminal" haul that included one unfortunate soul who was caught fishing without a license.
in and of themselves, none of the details gleaned from preston oates' public data prove anything about his state of mind at the time he fired 6 bullets from a glock semi-automatic pistol into carlos olivera's body. but in one comment issued shortly after oates was booked into jail, his mother complained that media outlets were using an old mugshot from a previous arrest that showed him smirking at the camera. both that photo and the one taken the day of his most recent arrest are shown here.
you tell me which photograph shows the remorse he is alleged to feel today.