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Editorial: Death of a Cowboy

In the wake of the sudden and shocking death of Charles “Cowboy" Conwell, a man who was visible for decades in downtown Laguna Beach as a street dweller and town character, some are trying to use the incident to attack the efforts of city officials to manage the homeless.

The fact that Cowboy was on his way to the nightly shelter at the ACT V lot when he was hit by a minivan as he crossed Laguna Canyon Road without benefit of a crosswalk should in no way indicate that this shelter is unsafe.

In fact, two friends of Cowboy’s, who crossed the street safely at a traffic light, made it to the shelter unharmed. They are no doubt traumatized, as is the driver, a mother who had four children with her inside the van, who had to experience this horrible accident firsthand.

It is most unfortunate that the homeless people and those who are working so hard to shelter, feed and assist them must now pass by this accident site on their way to and from the shelter.


It is a sad reminder of just how fragile life is and how important it is to make healthy choices.

What are we to do with people who put themselves in harm’s way by abusing their bodies with alcohol or drugs, who fail to take common-sense precautions in their everyday lives? Perhaps the miracle was that Cowboy survived for so many years on the streets.

From all accounts, this man had many friends who consistently gave him a helping hand and tried many times to turn him away from the dangerous path he was on, to no avail.

Some of those who helped Cowboy over the years apparently feel he was harassed and targeted by police.


Indeed, he was taken to jail more times than any other of the city’s street-dwellers, removed from harm and allowed to sober up and get a meal in the city’s “drunk tank," after which he went back to the streets.

No one who helped Cowboy over the years or who dealt with his excesses should feel responsible for his fate.

The tragic end to his life should be a wake-up call to others who are on the same path, and a reminder to everyone to make good choices and stay safe.

That would be a fitting legacy for the Cowboy.