Redemption: Former 'menace' asks society for another chance
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
PLEASANT VIEW — Michael Shawn Keenan was once labeled by police as a "huge danger" to the public.
During a three-month period in late 2005 through 2006, Keenan was seemingly stealing cars, getting in chases with police, getting arrested and being released every other week.
"When those (thefts and chases) were happening, I was slamming methamphetamine," he said. "I had (stolen cars) parked all over, man. I had new cars parked all over neighborhoods. Any neighborhood I was in, I always had two or three cars just in case."
After one particular chase with police, officers agreed not to seek charges for yet another stolen vehicle if he'd just take them to at least one other vehicle that they could recover, he said. Keenan agreed.
Those years of "madness," as Keenan calls them — or "darkness" — consumed him for the first three decades of his life.
But that was then.
Now, the man who was once called by police a "menace" to society claims he has completely changed his life.
"That darkness in my life is over. I will never be that man again. I've lived, I've learned from it, now I'm done with it. I'll never be that man again. I know in my heart. I see life differently," he said.
Prior to 2010, Keenan was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail 11 different times. His history of probation, parole and incarceration with the Utah State Prison dates back to the early 1990s.
"I was living my life trying to be somebody I wasn't. I never really had a chance to discover who I was because of the way I was raised, and so I blamed my past and my upbringing on just everything in general and everybody else," he said. "So I was continuously making poor choices and not learning from them. So I continued to rob and steal cars."
This week marks one year since Keenan was discharged from prison. In the past year, he has not been re-arrested or charged and has remained clean.
The biggest challenge now, however, for the 40-year-old Keenan, is to convince others that he is a changed man.
"Just give me a chance. Open your door. Let me in. See that I'm not going to come in and pick your pocket," he said.
Born to be bad?
Growing up, Keenan said, he was taught how to fight and learned how to be a criminal. He began stealing at 11. By 17 he was robbing stores with his friends, though he said he was always the getaway driver because he couldn't face the people he was robbing.
Keenan said he was surrounded by "negative influences" and had "spurts" of drug addiction, which he supported by stealing.
"Those darknesses are horrible. Addiction is bad," he told the Deseret News recently from the front porch of his home in Pleasant View.
But, more than anything, Keenan thought being a criminal was all he was meant to do in life.
"I thought that's all I was," he said. "It was like my way of life. I was a criminal. I figured I'd die in prison. I figured I'd be an old man in prison and I didn't care.
"I was continuing down a dark path, lost, not even knowing who I was."
It wasn't until his most recent stay in prison, in 2011, that he began to turn his life around. It all started, he said, because he got "aggressive" with another inmate in a dispute over food.
"The way I reacted was not how I was feeling," he said. "I reacted the way I was taught to react."
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