It never ended….

It’s probably not supposed to end, really, for if it did, what would that mean for humanity, what would that mean for all those people whose livelihoods depend on the shitty things that happen?  My optimism wanes, at times, and even with a slant toward realism, I can’t help but hold the cynical view that things just suck sometimes, and with a “sometimes” that seems to occur with much more frequency than it did in days of yore.

The beautiful spring rains brought running rivers and streams and the natural greening hues to our desert city and surrounding areas.  The wildflowers were in full bloom and were sustained for weeks and months by frequent rains and storms that were a bit unusual for our particular geography here in the desert southwest.  And now the weeks and months have continued on their wheel and we are dead into the second week of summer.  The sun is up and out earlier, and its heat is still felt deep into the night and early mornings.  The wildflowers and weeds that were so beautiful and green a couple months ago have now gone the way of memories, but still stand in their brown and dried-out husks and broken-off stems along the streets, vacant lots, and river beds where they once flourished.  The city-scapes that were transformed in the spring-time have removed themselves back into their desert hues and the denizens are now wilted way-farers who traverse the city streets and then seek the shaded parking spaces when they arrive at their destinations.

When the sun goes down, more people come out.  The streets have more slow driving vehicles and more slow walking neighbors and passers-through, and they are hot and restless.  Tempers that might have been slow to rise are now quick and furious.  In some parts of town, the only air-conditioning to be found is in the corner convenience store and grocery store lobbies.  Many homes only have the aged “swamp-coolers” that blow moist and warm air and only provide mild comfort…so people move to the out of doors, with beer in hand, and become part of the night…and part of the night commander’s duty report, as either suspect or victim.  In addition to the normal or “run-of-the-mill” shootings, armed-robberies, home-invasions, and coyote infested drop-houses that routinely fill and occupy the commander’s report, we also had the following:

West City Precinct – Traffic Fatality.  On a certain Sunday, at approximately 2152 hours, an adult female was driving her Mustang westbound on Timothy Road approaching 82nd Avenue.  There were a total of six individuals in the vehicle; they were all juveniles except the driver.  The adult driver apparently lost control of the car and collided with a large palm tree.  A witness stated that he saw two pick-up trucks racing westbound and forced the Mustang into the median where it collided with the palm tree. Four of the passengers were ejected from the vehicle, including a two year-old.  The adult driver and a 14 year-old juvenile were pronounced dead at the scene; the two-year-old child was in critical condition, and the remaining passengers were transported by Fire personnel to St. Josephus Hospital.  Vehicular Crimes detectives responded and took disposition.

South City Precinct – Death of Child.  On another certain Sunday afternoon at 3330 West Sunvale Avenue.  A family attended church and then arrived home at approximately 1430 hours…and failed to bring their two year-old daughter into the house.  The child was in the car seat and remained there until 1720 hours when the father went to the vehicle to run an errand.  (How do you not notice your two year-old missing for almost three hours?  How do you not notice your two year-old missing for 15 minutes?)  The father attempted to administer CPR and called the Fire Department.  Fire personnel transported the child to St. Josephus Hospital where she was pronounced dead.  Violent Crimes Bureau detectives responded for disposition.

North-East City Precinct – Shooting/Suicide.  On a certain Tuesday afternoon at 1545 hours, officers responded to 521 E. Whatever Circle in reference to a shooting.  The investigation revealed an adult female victim that had been shot four times by her ex-boyfriend.  The victim was transported to Ron P. Buchannan Hospital in critical condition and underwent emergency surgery.  No contact could be made with the suspect who remained inside the victim’s home.  Patrol officers established a perimeter and the SWAT team was called-out.  The K-9 units and Air Unit were already on scene.  When SWAT personnel made entry into the victim’s house, they located the suspect with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Violent Crimes Bureau detectives took disposition.

West City Precinct – Domestic Violence/Officer Involved Shooting.  Officers responded to a shots-fired call at 3910 W. Whichever Road.  On arrival, they heard shots being fired inside the house.  The initial investigation revealed the adult male suspect was involved in an argument with family members, retrieved a gun, fired several rounds while inside the house, and then exited through the front door firing at officers. Two West City Precinct officers returned fire and struck the suspect several times.  The suspect was transported to St Josephus Hospital.  Violent Crimes Bureau detectives and Professional Standards Bureau detectives responded for disposition.

And lastly, while it didn’t make it into the night commander’s report because it didn’t happen at night, this one is still interesting…ok, odd.  One of my employees asked me if I had heard about a particular call that he had taken on 9-1-1.  I hadn’t, so he told me about it and then I listened to the recording.

9-1-1, Where is the emergency?

“4321 West Why-Not Lane.”  The man spoke with something like a lisp, a murmur, or some type of blurred speech.

Is this medical?

“It’s kind of…yeah.”

Do you need paramedics?

“Yeah, probably.”

What’s going on?

“I shot my wife and children.”

When did you do this?

“On Friday.”

This is Tuesday morning.  You shot your wife on Friday?

“Yeah.”

Where is your wife now?

“She’s in her office, or my office.  She’s laying on the floor.”

And where are the children?

“I don’t have any children.”

Is there anybody else in the house with you?

“I’ve got a couple dogs in the house.  They’re just little things, Chihuahuas; they won’t hurt anybody.”

Ok.  Let me get this straight.  You shot your wife on Friday, right?

“Yeah.”

And she’s dead?

“Yeah.”

Ok.  And are your kids there in the house with you?

“I said I don’t have any kids.  There’s just me and the dogs in the house…and my wife back there in the office.”

And the dogs…they’re ok?

“Yeah, the dogs are fine.  I like them.”

You like the dogs.

“Yeah, they’re good dogs.”

And you said you might need paramedics.  Are you hurt or something?

“Yeah.  I shot myself in the chin.”

You shot your wife and then shot yourself in the chin?

“Yeah.”

And you did this on Friday?

“Yeah.”

What’s your name?

“John Xxxxx.”

And you’re at 4321 West Why-Not Lane?

“Yeah.”

Ok.  Where is the gun that you used to shoot your wife?

“It’s there in the office.  I put it up on the desk.”

Are there any other weapons in the house?

“Oh, yeah.  I’ve got a .380 and a 45 in the living room and a 22 in the kitchen.”

And where are you in the house right now?

“I’m in the living room.”

Are you going to be ok when the officers get there?  We don’t want you coming to the door with a gun in your hand.

“No.  I’m fine.  I’ve already fucked-up my life enough.  I don’t want to hurt anybody else.”

Ok.  It looks like officers are in the area.  Can you see any police cars outside yet?

“No.  There’s nobody here yet.”

Ok.  You’re sure there’s nobody else in the house with you?

“Yeah, just me and the dogs…and my wife in the office.  I can see a police car out front now.”

Ok.  Are you outside?

“Yeah.”

And you don’t have anything in your hand but the phone, right?

“Nope, just the phone.”

On the recording, I could hear the officer in the background telling him to put down the phone.

“Should I put down the phone now?  She’s telling me to.”

Yes.  Set the phone down.

My operator had told me that the man had shot his wife and children.  He said that he asked the guy several times about the kids and he kept telling him that he didn’t have kids.  When I listened to the call, I had to play it back three times until I could discern what the guy said in that first minute of the call.  He said “I shot my wife and killed her,” not “I shot my wife and children.”  The injury he caused by shooting himself in the chin made the “and killed her” sound like “and children.”  He shot his wife and killed her…on Friday.

It’s hotter than shit outside and people are doing stupid things.  They’re drag-racing and forcing other drivers off the road, they’re shooting at each other, killing each other…and we’re shooting or killing some of them back, and they’re forgetting their babies in the back seat of their cars…after coming home from church…where are You when we need You, sweet Jesus?

**This is a Favorite Re-post from July, 2010.

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24 responses

  1. Hi Scott, Your post is from one year ago but it could have been written now. It’s difficult not to become overwhelmed by the state of the world…the state of one’s backyard even. I am talking to people and many of them are at a loss at what to do…what do we do except to try to do our little part to make it better? I don’t know. You got me thinking… Thanks.

    August 9, 2012 at 9:04 am

    • Hello, Nancy…it is a struggle not to become overwhelmed by the state of the world and by what’s happening in our own back yard, truly. And I think you’re right, we do what we can do in our own little corner of it to make it better. Thank you….

      August 10, 2012 at 7:52 am

  2. One of the reasons I am not in a line of work that involves dealing with tragedies is that eventually I would not be able to take it any more. Even what little I have seen has soured me to humans in general, and no amount of good makes up for even that little bit of personal knowledge.

    Then there are the things you hear about or read, like what are documented above, and while not personal experiences, you can’t un-hear them. They stay with you. Or at least they stay with me. Not to the extent that personal involvement would imprint them, but the effect is cumulative. More than that, I have a tendency to put myself in place of the victim, to imagine the fear, regrets, sadness, and even anger they would feel, if they could, for the senselessness of it all.

    There is a scene in Gone with the Wind, oft repeated in other movies. They walk out to see a wounded man, then another, then another . . . then the camera pans back, and you see is the aftermath of some battle. Scores, then hundred of wounded men, until you get the impression there is no end to them.

    I’m nearly sixty . . . When I let myself think about it, that is how I see the world; there is no end to amount and level of suffering going on around us if one just looks. I don’t want to look any more. It’s not that I don’t care . . . it’s that I can’t put a stop to it. The best I can hope for is to not be directly involved.

    Selfish, I know, but that cumulative thing I mentioned . . . it’s relentless, and the capacity to bury the cumulative impact of all the bad stuff is not infinite. The lives I can affect . . . mine and my wife’s, I want to salvage what I can of them, and see them to their end with a modicum of happiness, what comfort I can, and concentrating on what is good about this world and the humans who roam upon it. Not an easy task, I find.

    August 9, 2012 at 9:07 am

    • This type of work is and does become overwhelming, Emilio. I wrote the article/story in my last month or six weeks of working there…when my cup was full and I longed to be somewhere else, to be away from it…and I, like you would, still carry echoes of those voices inside of me…the voices I heard myself, on the other end of the 9-1-1 phone lines and coming from the officers’ radios as I worked their channels…and then later on the recordings that I reviewed with my employees…they are still there….

      All of your words above, are mine, as well…they resonate and echo within me, spoken with my voice. Thank you for saying them here….

      August 10, 2012 at 8:25 am

  3. Tragic stuff. So senseless. I started writing a bit about gun control but I didn’t want to start a thread and open myself up to ‘What’s it got to do with a Brit?’ type comments so I deleted it but living in a society that isn’t awash with guns is comforting. Thanks for sharing this again Scott.

    August 9, 2012 at 10:19 am

    • Yes, tragic and senseless…and we do seem to be in different worlds sometimes, but your essence of being a human still provides an understanding of what it would be like to live in ours and have our same concerns…. Thank you, Chillbrook.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:31 am

  4. I agree Scott — “Where Are You..” ~ this post sent pretty chilling shivers down my spine…. very well written — emotionally charging and clearly effective as a “wake-up” call for all of us. Can see it being published in a publication like the NY Times – or even The New Yorker (can tell where I live) …. but a job well done my friend. Blessings your way ~ R

    August 9, 2012 at 10:20 am

    • Thank you, Robyn…a piece from my past, but still very much alive and current today. Thank you for your kind words…and blessings.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:34 am

  5. Wow. Thoughts as heavy as an anvil…

    August 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

    • Thank you, Karen…and yes, just like that….

      August 10, 2012 at 8:34 am

  6. Great stuff Scott and very well written. I like that there is an overall sense of dread that permeates this piece but I have to tell you I found the last part about the guy who killed his wife somehow amusing. I don’t know if it was your intent to spin it as tragic AND funny but that is how I read it. You write really well my friend.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

    • Thank you, Mike, for your kind words…and no, there was no intent of being funny with that last part. It was baffling…frustrating…and incomprehensible…for me and in the context of my life…but, there it is, the raw stuff that still echoes in memories of memories of hearing the call those several times.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:43 am

      • What a job you have and your ass is on the line, isn’t it?

        August 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

        • Yes, Mike…it was an incredible job…and the ass was always on the line. Liability had legs of its own…

          August 10, 2012 at 11:29 am

  7. I tried very hard to teach my kids to care for the feelings of others and to do no harm. I try to set an example for all of those in my sphere of influence by trying to treat others as I would have them treat me. Other than that and not voting for people who would loosen gun restrictions even further, I don’t know what more we can do. There will always be evil in this world but there will also always be good as well, and I believe that good will always win in the end. I’ll never understand a person who thinks that harming another person might lead to a better life for themselves.

    August 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    • I share your thoughts on those lessons and examples for our children, Allen…seems to be a good starting place. I would suggest that those people who seek gain by hurting others have missed-out on such lessons and examples…and have likely been irreparably harmed/damaged by others who are/were similar to themselves.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:58 am

  8. Your depictions went straight to my heart. You tell it well. And in a dry way, you’re able to share the horror of it all. These are hard things to deal with. It’s really hard work. Even though I’m half way around the world, I feel like thanking you in the name of the plain folk who’re trying to enjoy this life… and you’re saving us from dealing with the worst.

    August 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    • Thank you for your words, Shimon, your deep sentiment. And while I no longer engaged in this work, I share your respect and gratitude for those who are….

      August 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

  9. You paint in words so much like Lust and Rum does with his photo images of the forsaken street people. Always so hard to look at, much less comment on. What would we do without the courageous souls like you who deal with this crap? Sad that it can’t help but permeate your soul somehow unless you grow a really hard shell.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    • The rewards came in helping the innocents and sometimes catching the bad guys, Gunta…and no, we don’t walk away untouched, not in our minds and not in our bodies; it leaves a mark, despite the facade of a shell. Thank you for your kind words…and for being here.

      August 10, 2012 at 9:08 am

  10. Sad and frightening. I feel for you. We all need to care more about each other; but that smacks of weakness and socialism, and that impinges on my freedom to do whatever I want to do, so I will pull myself up by my own bootlaces and take what I want, and if you’re in a hole well that’s your own dam fault, and what the hell, it ‘aint the gun that kills its the person who pulls the trigger………… oops, got carried away for a moment there.

    Its not just about the weather, we all have this cultural underbelly of desperation, isolation; reality ignored, and violence.

    Let’s not forget the photographers and writers who have presented the realities of life and have made a difference. Today I came face to face with ‘The Migrant Mother’ by Dorothea Lange in an exhibition here in Scotland. We need reminding: If we know and we can share, then we can act together. Only by working together; only by a groundswell can we defeat the pressure groups; the self seeking bankers, the blow in the wind politicians and the corporate greed.

    Mmm, sad, very sad. Thanks Scott. The hope is the spring time, the new growth, the fresh optimism ………

    August 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

  11. I would accept those labels of weakness and socialism, if they meant that we truly cared more about each other…and were active in the pursuit of doing so. They were snippets of a sick society, damaged beings that are beyond repair. And no, it’s not just about the weather, of course, but summer nights in that valley were violent and mean and reeked with an ugliness that we didn’t often remember on distant winter nights.

    And what a treasure to have been face to face with “The Migrant Mother.” I have been moved by her somberness many times through prints and photographs…I, too, hope for the writers’ and photographers’ influence in our societal springtimes, that change would come. I do hope….

    Thank you, John….

    August 10, 2012 at 9:21 am

  12. Powerful Scott! That must have been awfully hard. Glad you are out of it now.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    • Thank you, Madhu…and yes, it was often very hard…and while I sometimes miss the nature of the work, I am glad to be out of it, too. 🙂

      August 12, 2012 at 6:50 am

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