By Marsha Sutton
California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control investigator Shelley Bishop has been frustrated in her efforts to uncover details of events that occurred on Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 when Torrey Pines High School student Alex Capozza died in a rollover crash as a passenger in a car driven by a drunk teen. The crash occurred after the two boys and three other fellow students left a party in Rancho Santa Fe where alcohol was present.
She said she can’t pursue a criminal case without information from witnesses about who supplied the alcohol to the minors. And the minors, on advice of their parents and sometimes their attorneys, aren’t talking.
“It would be nice to know the exact details,” said Michael Capozza, Alex’s father. “It wouldn’t change anything for Alex. But what I would hope is that the kids would realize that as holders of those little bits and pieces of information it’s ... their responsibility to, not to rat on their friends, but to shed some light on the events of the evening.
“This is obviously not a legal responsibility, but it is a moral one,” Capozza said. “If the collective thinking by our teens is that we need to take care of one another, just as this community demonstrated with the overwhelming outpouring of support for our family, then perhaps the following will happen next time, after the events of this fateful evening have been discussed openly: ‘I will not stand idly by while I watch one friend lose 11 games of beer pong and then get behind the wheel with more of my friends in his car.’”
Capozza said he has been frustrated and disappointed by the unwillingness of the teens to speak to law enforcement. Of the 23 teens who are potential witnesses to the events that night, he said no one so far has decided to come forward to share what they know.
“I don’t know how to get through to this age group,” he said, adding that remaining silent and “protecting” their friends is just another poor choice they are making.
“I believe several of the teens were willing to speak to investigators but were counseled by their parents and at least one lawyer not to say anything to the authorities — very disappointing,” Capozza said.
“One friend is dead, another is incarcerated. Avoiding making a statement at this juncture doesn’t expose anyone to more punishment. When do you tell the truth or counsel your child to do so?
“This isn’t about liability. It’s about healing, reconciliation, taking the initiative to care for each other, and hopefully prevention of a repeat performance. It would destroy me to watch another family go through this hell of losing a child. This act of omission is just another choice that the kids, and sometimes the parents, are making to keep silent and protect their friends when ultimately it may harm them instead.”
Capozza has heard rumors that a parent other than the homeowner supplied the alcohol to the teens that night and said the silence on the matter of bad adult behavior contributes to the dangerous party scene that continues every weekend.
“If the kids don’t come forward and say this is how everything went down, no one’s going to learn anything from it,” Capozza said.
But he is resigning himself to the possibility that the truth may never be uncovered. “This is just another type of a cancer that will eat you up if you spend too much time obsessing about it,” he said.