Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Long Live Keanu – remembering a life cut way too short


There’s a bench in Jones Park placed in a specific location by his mother. It faces the playground where Keanu Michael Lloyd Apodaca-Young played for 12 years while living just a stone’s throw away. Keanu climbed cherry trees just behind the bench and hung out in the park with his friends for hours at a time. That same park bench is also a few feet away from the bathrooms where his lifeless body was found April 22, 2021. He was a victim of a fentanyl overdose. Keanu was just 17, a student a Monterey Trail High School.
“I know if he knew how dangerous it was, he would have never taken that pill,” Keanu’s mother, Charmaine Apodaca-Benivides said. 

Two years to the day Keanu passed away Apodaca-Benivides and other family members gathered at Keanu’s bench, paid for by Apodaca-Benivides and with the help of Cosumnes CSD, placed at just the “right spot” in Jones Park. The family had a regular feast of food on a table next to the bench for any friend or family member to sit under the shade of the trees, reconnect with each other and in their special way, remember the bundle of energy and life that was Keanu. White helium balloons bounced around in the wind with the initials “LLK” painted on them – “Long Live Keanu.” 

A large yellow butterfly flickers overhead. Apodaca-Benevides points to it and smiles, “There is Keanu. He’s been visiting us since this morning.” She’s found a bit of joy in those kind of things over the past two years, since that tragic day. She draws on the comfort and strength of her husband Henry and her two older sons Malik and William. Apodaca-Benivides also has used her energies over the past several months to make the community very aware of the sinister effects of fentanyl.

In fact, next to Keanu’s bench and for this day of remembrance she’s placed a display with photos of Keanu in elementary school, butterflies and purple flowers all surrounding two very sobering fliers. One states, “Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug that has been the cause of multiple local overdose deaths. We as a community need to make sure prosecution of those involved in the sale and distribution of fentanyl, ‘One Pill Can Kill’ and furnishing fentanyl ‘WILL’ results in murder charges in the event of a death.” 

The other flier is an informational one from the online resource, 1PillCanKillSac.com, an informational website from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. The website claims that 98 percent of the most common street pills tested are fake, and of those, 98 percent contained fentanyl. 

Apodaca-Benivides admits her son, through a friend or two, was experimenting in the time leading up to his death with opioids. She says she didn’t know it at the time. Later, she discovered Keanu and a female friend, through social media, had contacted a drug dealer for some pills, but little did they know, they were laced with fentanyl. “The doctor who did the autopsy says the amount of fentanyl in those pills would have killed 10 more people, as well,” Apodaca-Benivides said. 

Her display encourages parents to regularly monitor their children’s social media accounts. 1PillCanKillSac.com claims drug dealers contact children primarily through that kind of online app and money transfer apps, as well. Apodaca-Benivides says local law enforcement officials know who the drug dealer was who sold Keanu and his friend those deadly pills. 

“He’s gone into hiding,” she said. “There’s an arrest warrant out for him.” 

Just a small amount of fentanyl powder is deadly according to 1PillCanKillSac.com. Signs of an overdose include the individual cannot be woken up, their nails and lips turn blue. If conscious, they typically are dizzy and confused and may have choking or snoring sounds. Plus, they generally have difficulty staying awake. They say if you find someone with these symptoms to phone 911 immediately and stay with the person until help arrives. If available, the drug naloxone should be administered.

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