Friday, June 24, 2011

Chase to the Cul-de-Sac

Watching the gunman run shirtless through our neighborhood this afternoon, I wondered why the cops didn't just shoot him.

Our normal, quiet morning had been winding down, and my stomach had begun informing me that lunchtime was arriving soon. I work on my blog in an overstuffed chair in front of a window, looking out over our front yard. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a police car cruise by our house with its lights flashing.

Getting up to look out the window, since I'm prone to curiosity, I noticed that another police car had blocked off another street in our neighborhood. Immediately, my mind flashed back to the federal raid last fall on the house some Muslims are renting nearby. But this wasn't a raid - something about the way the police cars would halt and surge told me they were either looking for something, or trying to box somebody in.

Wouldn't you get hooked by the intrigue?

In Pursuit

About this time, a choir of sirens began to wail so loudly nearby, I became instantly convinced something big was going down. Some neighbors who'd parked in the street where one of the police cars had gone were getting in their vehicle, yet looking up the street, further confirming to me that excitement was brewing.

I dashed outside into the front yard, the cry of police car sirens growing even stronger. There's something about that sound - isn't there? - that makes your blood race. Gets your adrenaline going. Even if you've done nothing wrong.

Well, I got to the street, where I could look and see where the police had gone, and they were just sitting up there, as was the other cop further away.

By that time, the neighbors who had been getting into their vehicle had driven to where I was standing, so we chatted for a few moments. Actually, we were laughing about how just yesterday, we had commented on how quiet things had been in our little corner of the world.

Shortly, my next-door neighbors emerged from their house with their two toddlers, announcing they were going to her parent's ranch for a long weekend. So there we were, a chatty little tableau of ordinary suburban life, when suddenly, police cars began to swarm our street.

Everything happened so fast, I don't even remember if they still had their sirens on, but here they came, from seemingly all sides, tires squealing and engines revving, with a small army of police officers in black uniforms running along the lawns.

And then we saw him. A skinny white guy with no shirt on, seemingly fearless, racing as fast as he could, holding a shotgun, looking like he was trying to aim it while he was sprinting across other people's lawns. A handful of police officers were hot on his heels, their guns drawn, several aimed right at the guy they were chasing. They ran across the wide yard right across the street from where my neighbors and I had been visiting.

All of us civilians yelled at the same time: "Get the kids inside!"

Their mother grabbed the kids and began herding them towards their front door, while their father, instantly indignant that this guy would dare threaten his family, appeared to want to run and help pursue the gunman, probably out of sheer paternal reflex. However, he caught himself - as well as his son - and got his family safely inside. It was all incredibly surreal.

My other neighbors, in a silver Lexus SUV, were too stunned to move, but there really wasn't anyplace to go anyway. Police cars were still whizzing by us in the street, and officers seemed to have cornered the gunman between two houses right in front of us - one of them owned by a state judge.

"Maybe if I get in your SUV, I'll be a little safer than standing out here in the open," I suggested to my neighbors, but by the time I'd opened the door, the officers had already begun backtracking, running breathlessly between other houses.

Obviously, the thin, shirtless gunman had given them the slip.

Shots Fired

"They shoulda shot 'em when they had the chance," somebody said. Maybe me, I don't know! Events were still unfolding rapidly. Cops continued running from yard to yard, and some police cars tore out of our neighborhood, back to the main street.

As my neighbors in the Lexus determined it was getting safe to go ahead and drive away, more cops returned, running back into our neighborhood, joined by a couple of squad cars, racing down into a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a hill.

I left the Lexus and walked - perhaps stupidly - down the street to the crest of our small hill, where I could see all the police cars stuffed into the cul-de-sac and lining the street, officers running to and fro like ants. There was some shouting, and then at least three shots in rapid succession; two obviously from the same gun, and then another shot.


Down in the Cul-de-Sac

Turns out, according to news reports already posted online, the guy had been doing drugs all night at his father's home not far from here, and holding him hostage. Just before noon, the father managed to call police from a neighbor's home, and when cops showed up, his son fled the house with a gun. Before too long, Arlington's Finest tracked him down in our neighborhood.

While down behind the houses in our cul-de-sac, beside a narrow creek, the gunman had fired a couple of shots into property owned by a neighboring mosque, and that's when police finally shot him.

In the leg. He's recuperating at taxpayer expense in the hospital.

Fortunately, nobody at the mosque was injured, although they do run a day care on-site. Today being Friday, the Islamic holy day, worshippers were probably already arriving for services. At this point, nobody's saying whether the gunman intentionally targeted the mosque, but I sincerely hope he wasn't. Regular readers of this blog know that I harbor little affection for Muslims, but neither do I wish them harm.

Of course, after all this had taken place, a police helicopter finally showed up on the scene, chopping and clattering away above our house like it was looking for a place to land! I'm sure it would have been a big help in the capture of their suspect... if it had arrived about half an hour earlier.

As it is, some news trucks found their way into our neighborhood and, a little while ago, I noticed them interviewing one of our neighbors - who wasn't even home at the time all this went down. The helicopter is gone, and all of the police cars, except one.

Not knowing all of the circumstances that let up to the kid abusing drugs, and holding his father hostage in his own house, I can't really accurately analyze blame and identify causal scenarios.  Except to say that the kid on drugs who raced through our otherwise peaceful, family-friendly neighborhood at midday with a gun should be locked up for a good long while.  After he gets out of the hospital, of course.

I feel sorry for my next-door neighbors who left for a family weekend during an atmosphere of confusion, violence, and danger.  And for the judge's wife, who was alone in the back of their house, fearful over why a horde of police officers were suddenly crashing through the backyard.

Even though only the gunman was hurt, I've had to ask God to give me compassion for him. It's difficult for me to feel anything but disdain for people like that. Yet I live in such a closed little Christian world, perhaps it's necessary for me to be occasionally reminded of the pain and wretchedness that exists in people around me.

Not that this little story is about me.

But that maybe I should be grateful this little story really isn't about me, but a miserable, drugged-up guy the press have identified as John.

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