Leah Sottile | Longreads | February 2018 | 33 minutes (8,200 words)


The night before Quanice Hayes was shot in the head by a police officer, the skinny 17-year-old was snapping selfies with his girlfriend in a seedy Portland, Oregon, motel room.

Bella Aguilar held her phone close when she clicked off the photos: In one, the 18-year-old girl pushes her tongue out through a smile, her boyfriend leaning over her right shoulder, lips pressed to her cheek, his dreads held back with one hand.

In another, Aguilar cradles her cheek against a black-and-sand-colored gun. It’s fake — the kind of air-powered toy that kids use to pop each other with plastic pellets in indoor arenas. Hayes peeks into the frame behind her.

If you know that the gun is fake, you see a snapshot of two kids playing tough; if you don’t, those photos looks like the beginning…

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