Mikael Tirado was born March 23rd, 1997. He was the youngest of six siblings, the baby of the family. From the time he was born Mikael had this infectious smile that would brighten anyone’s day. We grew up spending holidays, birthdays and special occasions with our family. My parents didn’t like to travel with all of us and rarely family would come out of their way to visit us. Growing up, we siblings did everything together. Now when we get together, we like to reminisce and laugh about all the memories we made as kids. Our parents divorced when I was 12 and Mikael was 4. My mom couldn’t handle taking care of all of us herself, so she let my stepdad take custody of my 2 youngest siblings, Sundiata age 7 and Mikael age 2 at the time. My stepdad let my mom have visitation every other weekend and some holidays, so I still got to see my brothers and grow up with them. But this was not as often as I wanted or as much as I liked.
So, when I turned 18, I got an apartment and car of my own and had my first child. I started to have a better relationship with my stepdad and I was able to see my brothers more. I was spending every weekend with them, picking them up on Fridays, dropping them off on Sundays and spending every holiday together. Mikael was 10 when he became an uncle, so I basically raised him with my kids doing the same age-appropriate activities. Our mom remarried someone who was incarcerated in prison, so all her weekends and extra time were focused on her new marriage. As a result, Mikael became my responsibility and I had no problem with that. I loved being his big sister. He loved to be with me and spend time together. As he got older, he started swimming and playing basketball. All through high school he played football and basketball. When he graduated, he chose to start earning his own money because he always wanted to help the family financially. He eventually got into music with some friends, recording his own tracks which he has on SoundCloud now.
My sister and younger brother started to notice a change in Mikael. He got depressed, became withdrawn, quit his job and started breaking rules of the house, which included no smoking marijuana. He was caught twice and warned about it. After many nights of him staying up late recording music with his friends, he was caught a 3rd time and I had to kick him out. A few days later I found out from my sister that he and a group of his friends had been abusing Xanax and Percocet. One of his friends had a psychotic break episode and was put on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. After that, they all decided that abusing these prescription pills would lead to terrible outcomes. So, they all got sober and started getting their lives back on the right track.
3 months later I got a text from Mikael apologizing and asking if he could come back to live with me. He got a new job, saved to get a new car and he’d been sober. He needed his family and a stable place to live, so, of course I told him yes. Mikael was a hard worker and when he had days off, he would spend them at home with his nephews and niece. They would bake, do arts and crafts, and play outdoors at the park. Most rainy days were spent inside playing video games or watching movies.
I started working as a mail carrier for the USPS In 2018 and basically worked 12-14 hours a day so Mikael was a big help with my 4 children. He watched them, making sure they got their schoolwork and chores done every day. Then the pandemic hit and I started working 14-18 hours a day 6 days a week. Mikael got laid off from his job due to the pandemic, so he was at home 24/7. He couldn’t go to the gym to relieve stress and couldn’t see his friends or go out because of pandemic lockdowns and shutdowns. He got overwhelmed with home life. He got stressed about not being able to work and make money and it took him over 4 months to finally receive unemployment and when he did receive that money he decided to go out with some friends for the weekend. He left on Friday, September 4th , and came home around 7 A.M on Sunday, September 6th to celebrate my son’s 10th birthday. He took my son out to buy him a birthday gift and Mikael bought himself a TV and the 2K 22 Kobe Bryant edition video game.They played video games while I finished the birthday preparations. We all sang happy birthday to my son and spent the rest of the evening together.
Monday, September 7th, everyone went about their day and it wasn’t odd for Mikael to get up late because we know he stayed up late gaming online with his friends. By 6 P.M. we still hadn’t seen Mikael, so I looked outside and saw his car. My great aunt told me to go check on him. I opened his door slowly and saw him in the dark room at the end of his bed. It looked like he was in a sitting position and laid back and fell asleep. The TV was on. I didn’t hear any snoring, so I called his name twice and didn’t get a response. I flipped on his light and saw foam coming from his mouth. I ran over to him, started CPR, yelling his name, but when I touched him, he was cold. He was already gone. I called 911.
When the paramedics arrived, they just walked into his room, walked back out and told me, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I broke down and realized my brother was gone. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to be the one to call my mother and the rest of my family to tell them. When the coroner arrived, she found a bag of pills in his wallet and took them for testing. We received the toxicology report in February which listed the cause of death as Fentanyl intoxication. It showed he had four times the amount for a deadly dose of Fentanyl. There was no Percocet at all in the pills that were supposedly Percocet. It was a 100% fentanyl pill. Since Mikael was found at home and the police were not called no police report was filed and no criminal investigation was done. They ruled his death an accident and closed his case.
Mikael was the heart of our family. He never lost his kind spirit and always made family get togethers worth going to with his
dancing, jokes, playfulness, and just the love he had for his family. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He treated his friends like family and would give you the shirt off his back if needed. My family and I are left with 1 million unanswered questions. None of his friends are speaking up to say where they were, who he was with or where he got the pills from. Someone killed my brother for financial gain and they are still out there claiming more victims. I know my brother will not be the first or the last. I promised myself I would not let my baby brother’s death be in vain. And one day, I promise somebody will be held responsible for what happened to Mikael. He was only 23 at the time of his passing. This should not have happened to him and he should’ve had a full life.
Since then I have become an advocate and an activist in Fentanyl awareness, bringing education and awareness to my community and county. I have partnered with a nonprofit APALD, Association of people against lethal drugs and had organized a rally on June 4, 2021, in front of the Sacramento state capital which was a part of a nationwide rally event to bring awareness of a petition I have on change.org that has reached over 5000 signatures. I’ve also done a news story with CBS 13 and made the front page of the Sacramento Bee, and now I am partnered with the Sacramento County District Attorney working on a public awareness campaign called, “One Pill Can kill.”
I can’t change what happened to my brother nor can I bring him back, but I am doing everything I can to bring awareness, so this never has to happen to anybody ever again. Eventually, I am hoping to raise enough money to start my own nonprofit for fentanyl awareness. I have an active go fund me right now which hasn’t had very many donations but I’m hoping that will change.
Story by Allyssia Solorio