Manny Boney was born 18 years ago today and brought home from Washoe Medical Center on Christmas Day in an infant-size red stocking. Today his family will release 18 red balloons in remembrance near his grave at the Schurz Cemetery.
The Norman Boney family will spend its first Christmas without their youngest son. They must also get through his 18th birthday.
Manny, 17, was shot and killed by a Walker River Tribal police officer in July outside his Schurz home on the Walker River Tribal Reservation. Schurz is a community of 850 people about 30 miles south of Fallon on Highway 95.
His mother Gail Boney said the family is going to honor what would have been her son's birthday by releasing the balloons at the cemetery. One will be affixed to his grave, along with fresh flowers.
Another balloon proclaiming "Happy Birthday" will be left at the family house on Lake Pasture Road, near Schurz where Manny died.
When Manny was born 18 years ago, Gail Boney sent her husband, Norman, home while she was in labor. They had 3-year-old Tyrone at home who anxiously awaited a visit from Santa Claus.
"When I brought Manny home on Christmas Day, he was in a huge, big stocking," Gail Boney recalled. "That was the best Christmas I ever had."
The holidays will never be the same.
"Every single day, I cry for him," his mother said. "He was going to be 18. He never had a chance to be an adult."
The Boney family disputes the official version of events, saying their son was respectful of adults and not a violent person. Gail Boney had written a letter to the Walker River Tribal Council just two months earlier complaining about Valline, stating she feared he would harm a member of her family. She struggles with self-blame, wondering if things would have been different if she hadn't complained.
The Boneys have moved to Churchill County since the shooting, saying the memories are too painful to remain in Schurz. Since the shooting, the Boneys try to avoid their home in Schurz, which remains the way it did the day Manny died.
Tyrone Boney, who is an emergency medical technician for the tiny town south of Fallon, says he no longer feels comfortable on the reservation where he was raised.
He said he also has difficulty each time he answers a medical call. Tyrone responded to the call for medical help at his childhood home the day his younger brother died.
"Every time I go on a call, the whole scene is replayed," Tyrone Boney said. "The lights and sirens bring it all on."
But he also believes his brother's spirit is with him each day.
"When I start crying real hard, all of a sudden a strength comes over me," he said.
Manny's grandmother, Mary Johnson, said she experienced a message from her grandson after his death. He told her he was fine and not to worry, she said. The teen and his "granny" were especially close, spending many hours together at her house in Schurz.
"Manny was my baby," Mary Johnson said as tears streamed down her face. "He will always be my baby. I love him and will always love him. He's gone but not forgotten."
Few details are available on the status of an investigation into the July police shooting on the Walker River Indian Reservation in Schurz that killed a 17-year-old boy.
Natalie Collins, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said she is not permitted to confirm an investigation is in progress. Collins works in the Las Vegas office for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"We don't comment if a case is referred to us," Collins said this week. "We can't comment on cases until we file charges and it becomes a court record."
Former tribal police officer Walter Valline fired two shots with his service revolver in July, hitting Manny Boney Jr. in the neck and right side. The teen died in the yard of his Schurz home.
Immediately after the incident, Reno FBI agents began investigating the shooting. They had completed their probe by August and turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney to determine if Valline should face charges.
"We have not filed federal charges against Mr. Valline," was all Collins could say about the status of the case.
She said it wouldn't be fair to a person under investigation if information was released and no charges were ever filed because of insufficient evidence.
What is unclear is whether that means the shooting was deemed justified, or if it means federal prosecutors are still examining the case.
The Boneys have hired Reno lawyer Mitchell Wright and are pursuing a possible wrongful-death lawsuit.
Gail Boney said she vowed the day her son was buried that she will never tire seeking justice.
"I promised my baby I will always fight for him. Legally, I'm not going to let his death seem like it didn't happen," she said.
- Marlene Garcia