In 1999, Rashad Williams was an antidote to the poison of despair that was the aftermath of the Columbine school shootings. Just 15 years old, he became a national celebrity after raising tens of thousands of dollars for one of the victims. Williams was interviewed by many TV networks, including CNN. He even made an appearance on Oprah.
Popular, handsome and athletic, Rashad Williams strikes me as the kind of kid that many teenagers wished they could be. He was probably the kind of kid a lot of parents wished they could have raised. So it was with particular surprise and sadness that I read of his violent death a few months ago in California.
In December, Rashad was shot twice in the back and died in the middle of the street -- the result of what authorities describe as a violent home invasion. But then, details surfaced that floored me. Rashad, 21 years old, wasn't a target of the home invasion -- he was an intruder and was shot by the homeowner. Turns out that in recent years he had robbed banks and passed counterfeit checks. I have since talked to people who knew him best and we all share the same question: How could this happen?
Some possible clues emerge in these interviews, which we will feature tonight. At times, Rashad had problems with stress from the demands of celebrity. Also, there were issues at home with his mom going through a divorce. He was so burned-out in his senior year that he flunked classes and couldn't get a diploma. But are these reasons for such a terrible turn in a once inspiring life? I never found that answer and probably never will.