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A son's death, a mother's anguish | Former Issaquah teen battled heroin | Clarification

Kevin with a counselor from when he was in rehab in Spokane. She said,
Kevin with a counselor from when he was in rehab in Spokane. She said, 'I was a counselor to him. He was very special to me. I called him panda because of his panda hat. My heart hurts. Praying for the family.'
— image credit: Courtesy Image

Kevin Velasco was released from rehab Saturday evening, July 12. He'd been there almost a month, and should have been there until July 17, but he was expelled for throwing a rock which hit a staff member. Had he not thrown that rock, he'd most likely still be alive.

Velasco, 18, left his mom's house on Mercer Island Sunday afternoon. By Monday morning, Kevin was dead from an apparent heroin overdose. He was delivered to Swedish Hospital in Issaquah Monday morning, July 14, at 7 a.m., dead on arrival according to a spokesman for Swedish.

Conchita Velasco said he'd been in the Lakemont area of Bellevue, with a friend she'd always been uncomfortable with. Bellevue police responded to a Bellevue address for an overdose.

The Velasco family, Conchita, Kevin and his younger brother Edwin, used to live in Issaquah, but they moved to Mercer Island over three years ago to get away from a bad group of kids Kevin had become friends with. Kevin attended Issaquah High School for a short time, then he attended Mercer Island High School for the second half of his sophomore year and all of his junior year. Edwin will be a seventh-grader at Islander Middle School this fall.

"I was glad we left Issaquah," Conchita said.

Before he went to rehab this most recent time, he'd been detained in Issaquah by IPD for a probation violation. He'd also gone to a drug rehab facility in Spokane.

"He was working very hard not to be on drugs," his mother said.

She said she had found methadone in his room, with no prescription. Methadone is often used to wean a heroin addict off the drug. His friends from this most recent stint in rehab said a counselor was willing to write a letter that said he wasn't trying to hurt anyone with the rock, that it was just horseplay. The day Kevin was brought to Swedish, he and his mom were supposed to appear in court to explain why he wasn't still in the facility.

Talking to Conchita, Edwin, and family friend Billy Mendez, by all accounts he was a much loved kid, who like so many in recent years, had fallen victim to the highly addictive drug. Victoria Tranilla, who volunteers at The Meals Program in Issaquah, said Kevin thought of her as a second mom.

"Sixteen to eighteen-year-old girls are on the street on heroin — they sell drugs at the meal program — under the fire station across from city hall." Tranilla said.

Tranilla knew Kevin well.

"Kids dropped him off at the ER at Swedish," she said. "He was just dropped, like an animal. Somebody needs to pay. I'm angry."

Conchita said Kevin always told her how much he loved her. She knew of his addiction because he talked to her about it. He also told her he had a premonition that if he did drugs again he wouldn't wake up.

So when the police called her Monday morning from the hospital, her worst fear was confirmed.

Wednesday evening, July 16,  there was an impromptu vigil for Kevin at the Issaquah Skate Park, where he loved to skate. Organized by Tranilla's son, Thor Rystad, approximately 250 people attended. The cross, flowers, balloons and well wishes are all at Conchita's sister's home now. Friends spoke lovingly of him on a poster board and the cross. One particularly poignant inscription from another boy, said he wished for the "good old days" before addiction took over their lives.

At a joint meeting of the Issaquah and Sammamish City councils July 14, the day Kevin died, heroin was even part of the conversation. Issaquah City councilmember Tola Marts said heroin was "the scariest thing to come along in a while, "and that the two cities needed to work on solving the problem together.

The Reporter wrote about the heroin problem in April, 2013. Per the most recent statistics, in 2012 within the area of the Issaquah School District, there were 31 overdoses in the 19-30 age group, compared to 16 in 2009. In the age group 31-50, there were 25 overdoses in 2012 compared to 15 in 2009. Within the city of Issaquah, there were 18 overdoses in the 19-31 age group in 2012 compared to eight in 2009, and in the 31-50 age group there were 15 overdoses in 2012 compared to seven in 2009.Clarification: Not all the overdoses cited in the story were caused by heroin.

The Reporter is still waiting on updated statistics, as well as the report from Bellevue Police.

A memorial set up for Kevin at the Issaquah Skate Park, Wednesday July 16. About 250 people attended.

Kevin with his mother, Conchita Velasco.

Well wishers left messages for Kevin Velasco at the Issaquah Skate Park.

Well wishers left messages for Kevin Velasco at the Issaquah Skate Park.

Kevin's family took the memorial from the skate park home. Many friends and loved ones signed the cross and posters.

Overdose statistics from 2012, from all sources, show a spike in Issaquah.


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