Thursday, May 12, 2011

what happened next

The phone rang about 5:30pm, just a little over an hour after the shots were fired. My phone said "unknown" but I answered anyway.

"This is Detective ___" the voice on the other end said. "I'm wondering if I could come get you and drive you a couple of blocks over to look a car and some suspects."

"Of course." I answered without really thinking about what he'd said.

As we had processed the shooting, first with our neighbor S and then with various police officers Andrew and I remembered more about what had happened just before the gun appeared. There was a car, a young woman yelling from the passenger side at the group of boys, one of whom shot the gun. There were common colors worn by shooter and his friends, colors that folks around here associate with violence. I ended up talking to a gang unit detective who seemed to have some idea whose car had been shot at.

I slid into the passenger side of the black unmarked car and shut the door. We drove just around the corner and stopped in the middle of the street. Two police cars had pulled over a white sedan and a rotund black youth was sitting on the curb behind the car, between it and a patrol vehicle. It was at a bus stop, near the pool. What I wasn't prepared for were the onlookers - twenty to thirty teenagers crowded the tiered walkway that rose above the street on the outside of the pool building, watching the spectacle. And now watching me.

"Do you think this is the car you saw?" I looked at it. It was the right color, windows tinted. It looked a little more beat-up than I remembered, but I had only seen it in passing, not paying attention to the details.

"It could be." I said. "I can't say for sure that it is, but it absolutely could be." He radioed to his colleagues and they made the boy who had been sitting down stand up. He was bigger than any of the kids I had seen running away from the park. He stared down the street. "I didn't see the driver of the car," I told the detective. "Just the girl who was hanging out the window." I told him that this kid was the wrong shape - too big to be one of the boys in the shooter's group.

"Unfortunately the female is the only occupant of the car we don't have," he told me. "She was with them, but we don't have her in custody now." He didn't' explain further, but radioed the officers on the street again. "Next one please."

They had the bigger boy sit back down, and got another young man out of the patrol car. He was tall, also African-American, wearing black shorts and a red t-shirt. Unlike the other kid he seemed serious and focused. And he looked directly at me. I had never seen him before.

"I have never seen this kid." I said, wondering if the detective was disappointed. "Again, I didn't see anyone in the car."

As he drove me back I tried to identify what I was feeling. "It's so weird to me," I said aloud. "They're just kids." Watching the white officers with these young black men had provoked an odd mix of protectiveness, concern, and fear in me. The police in our city don't have the best record for treating well with minority youth.

"Well," the detective took a breath and continued. "I have seen plenty of these kids kill people. And because they're kids they don't get put away. A couple of months and they're back on the street."

Wow, I thought. This is not a world I am familiar with.
The car pulled back around, and stopped in front of our building. Andrew was blowing bubbles and J was chasing them. I got out of the car, went up the steps to my family and we went inside.

First part of this story is here. Now that I've got the events written down I'll be doing some more reflective posts about the experience.


  1. My goodness! What an experience! I am sorry you and your family had such a brush with gun power. I do know what it is like to see a shooting if you would like to talk to someone who has been there. My best to you and your family.

  2. I don't have long but I wanted to say that I'm sorry that you are going through this, it sounds like a total shock and a world that I'm not familiar with either. I guess it will take an immense amount of processing and cause profound reflection, I feel deeply shocked and I've only just skimmed your post. Sending love and best wishes to you and thinking of everyone in the neighbourhood going through this.x