This much is true about Raya: The 19-year-old man did in fact serve with the Marines' 1st Intelligence Battalion's motor transport unit as a driver in Iraq.
But contrary to the impression left by initial media reports, Raya had never seen combat. And he was not headed back to Iraq. He had been transferred to a new unit scheduled for deployment to Okinawa. "During our investigation, we found he wasn't due to go back to Iraq, never faced combat situations and never even fired his gun," Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Woodman said.
Raya was high on cocaine at the time of the ambush, according to police reports. He was reportedly affiliated with the prison gang Nuestra Familia. Investigators found photos of Raya wearing gang colors and a shopping list in his bedroom safe that included body armor, assault rifles and ammunition. Authorities also discovered a video showing Raya smoking what appears to be marijuana and making gang sign gestures. The tape showed desecrated pieces of the American flag laid on a gymnasium floor to spell out expletives directed at President Bush.
Family members deny Raya's gang ties and blame the military. Meanwhile, Raya's neighborhood was decorated with anti-cop graffiti such as "Kill the Pigs" in his memory. And militant Hispanic residents celebrate Raya. Ceres resident Hilda Mercado told The New York Times that Raya "died like a true Mexican: He died standing on his feet."
The question isn't what got into Raya when he entered the military. The question is why and how Raya -- who police say had a propensity for violence well before he joined the Marines -- got into our military in the first place.
And now you know the rest of the story.
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