a while back, there was a show called detroit 1-8-7. it was supposed to be about homicide detectives in detroit, but lots of things were wrong with it, including the fact that 1-8-7 is not the right code for a homicide in detroit. i think it is the code in LA or somewhere similar- perhaps where one of the producers is from- the first of many gaffes in the making of the show.
i was reminded of this the other day, while i was sitting in my car at a light on my way to the grocery store.
i was reminded of this because i was in the middle of a shooting.
as in, two sets of teenagers were shooting at each other across traffic, across a main street in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon.
and it was not cool at all.
first of all, they were too far apart to have had any chance of hitting each other, which meant that they had absolutely no judgement about what they were doing. clearly they were shooting for the sake of shooting, and that’s never a good sign.
second of all, in addition to the many cars at the light (literally hundreds of witnesses, which meant none of them was thinking straight, which was also a bad, bad sign…), there were several people standing right next to one of the pairs at a bus stop and several people standing next to the other pair at a school. again, very bad news because this meant they had no thoughts about potentially high body counts and that meant nobody was in their right mind.
and third, which was the worst for me, there was nowhere for potential innocent victims to get out of the way. because after i processed that they were actually shooting at each other for real and not just playing (because in the first split second of course i thought that of course they were just horsing around because they couldn’t seriously be shooting at each other) i realized that i couldn’t drive forward or sideways. i couldn’t back up. if i ducked, i wouldn’t have been able to see if traffic pulled forward, and bullets can penetrate car doors anyway. so every person in every car was pretty much a fish in a barrel. some of the people at the bus stop hit the ground but most of them just jerkily moved around trying to figure out where they should be that wasn’t where they were. shockingly, i didn’t see anyone actually run away. i think fear just paralyzes most people. one car in the front of the line did take off, but the rest of the people just sat there. after an eternal minute (or several?), the kids ran in separate directions and i drove on to the grocery store.
i didn’t call the police.
i’ll tell you why, and then i have a question for you.
i didn’t feel like i could accurately describe any of the kids. i saw what one of them was wearing (the one i watched fall backward and then stand up shooting). i saw his gun and was mesmerized trying to figure out what model it was. don’t criticize; the brain does strange things in crisis mode, and i forgot that i should have been trying to take mental notes on each of the people instead of focusing on one of the guns… but even his clothing wasn’t concrete enough in my head that i felt like i could be specific to the point where i should say it to police.
although i felt like i watched for several minutes, when i played the tape back in my head, the snapshot didn’t seem that long, and it wasn’t rich enough with information that would have been useful to do anything but take up an investigator’s time.
i made a deal with myself that if there was a police officer in the grocery store when i got there (there often is), then i would tell him what i saw. this time, nobody was there. i mulled over what to do as i shopped.
on the way home, there were no ambulances in the area, which meant that nobody had been hit accidentally. it was a small miracle, but another reason i didn’t feel compelled to act.
and then there’s this: i’m still new enough here that i don’t know the lay of the land. i don’t know who is who, and i’d rather not get involved in someone settling a score and potentially put my family in harm’s way if there isn’t a strong reason.
now here is my moral dilemma:
these teenagers are clearly unsafe. they very obviously own weapons and have no reservations about using them in a reckless manner. this is a double-edged sword, because on the one hand, i feel like as a responsible citizen i feel like i should do whatever i can to get them off the streets.
but on the other hand i know that they most likely will not get off the streets and i don’t want my name or address on record as the person who ratted them out because i know how that blows back on people and since nobody got hurt the cost (so nothing will happen to them anyway…) outweighs the benefit.
and me potentially being responsible for the race-based harassment of some innocent people (i.e. the wrong people, based on my sketchy description) by the police is not something i feel good about on any level…
so, my question to you is: what would you have done if this was you? it all happened so fast and was so surreal that there literally wasn’t time to call police at the scene or even a safe place to pull over nearby. to stay there and watch then longer to get a better description was completely out of the question for safety reasons; as it was i honestly was wondering if i would make it home to my kids…
if you have joined this blog lately because you are into the gardening stuff, i will apologize to you now, but extend the hope that you will hang in there with me 😉
so, what’s your call? good samaritan or selfish citizen?