Pacific tries to cope with a terrible tragedy

A terrible tragedy, a sudden loss of a young life, can shake any community. But in the hamlet of Pacific, it hits especially hard.

So hard it can reduce the city’s compassionate mayor to tears.

Richard Hildreth works long and hard as an electrician by trade, then with what’s left of his crowded days tends to his demanding role as Pacific’s underpaid mayor.

But he has never dealt with such a devastating loss of a friend, community leader and good-natured soul.

Shiloh Drott, 21, was shot to death at a youth event inside the community center last Friday night.

The center’s damaged rec room sits silent and empty just a few yards behind Hildreth’s office. A plywood sheet bearing the names of well-wishers has replaced the shot-shattered front window. Scattered bullet holes scar the interior. A rug covers the spot where Drott collapsed.

Meanwhile a makeshift memorial of flowers, signs, candles and mementoes blankets the City Hall sign on the front lawn.

“It’s been a tough week,” said an emotionally-drained Hildreth, pain evident in his bloodshot eyes. “I have had friends of mine die and my father died, but I have never experienced anything of this degree. We never had a person like this who touched so many lives.”

Drott, an Auburn Riverside High School graduate, had moved back to the city he grew up in to live with his mother, a Boeing machinist.

He was a big brother, a mentor, someone who loved basketball and coached youngsters. He also enjoyed his friends, classic cars and music.

“Everyone who knew Shiloh loved him … and I knew him since he was 6. He would come here (in the gym) to play ball and be around other kids,” said Joanne Futch, youth coordinator for the City of Pacific. “He did no wrong. He was a great guy, a pleasure to know, one of the best kids I’ve got to know.”

That kid no longer is around to share his good words and wisdom with other kids. For unknown reasons, a shooter now under lock and key took him away. And investigators are tasked with trying to find out why.

Friends and some witnesses say Drott wasn’t the target.

But it is unclear if Drott was involved in an earlier “mean mugging” staredown at a convenience store near the community center that might have precipitated the shooting, investigators say. It is unclear if Drott or someone else provoked the shooter with an obscene gesture while inside the center.

Yet investigators say a 22-year-old man, Sopheatheara Kim, became irate and followed two men to the center. Kim walked up to the window and sprayed it with at least eight rounds from a 9mm handgun, investigators say. One shot struck Drott as he tried to push others down and out of the line of fire.

“That’s just who he was,” said one witness. “He was always looking out for others.”

When emergency personnel arrived, they tried to revive Drott. But he was gone.

Prosecutor’s charged Kim this week with first-degree murder. Two other men were arrested and charged in connection with the shooting.

All of which does nothing to soothe the pain of a small community in a city where murder seldom strikes.

“It’s been one of the toughest weeks of my life,” said Futch, whose children attended the same school as Drott. “But I’m here to go on and keep things as normal as possible.”

In his loss, the community is trying to pick up the pieces. Plans are being made to remodel the rec center, perhaps name the East Room in Drott’s honor – perhaps the “Bleau Room” after his middle name, as Hildreth said. Businesses have offered to donate.

“It’s galvanized people. I know it’s galvanized the youth and the parents in this community,” Hildreth said.

“Everyone has to work through their own grief. It will still take me time to recover, but the people in this community are amazing.”