Sunday, March 3, 2013

Crime and Punishment

There is a dead body in my driveway.  I can look out my kitchen window and see it covered with a white tarp.  Actually it’s a foot or two from my driveway, next to my neighbors’ air conditioner.  

Strange to think that I’m standing in my kitchen eating an apple and watching crime scene investigators hovering around what looks like a large lump on the grass.  Strange to look out my front door and see one of those yellow crime scene tapes you see on TV fastened around the trunk of my tree. Stranger still, I’m sure, for my next door neighbor to come home to this.

A helicopter drones overheard.  The police are taking dozens of pictures and discussing on which side of the property line the shooting occurred.  Channel 13 has rung my doorbell, asking if I would like to come out and talk to them on camera.  No.

It, “the incident, ” happened around 4:00.  I was in the room I use for speech therapy, working with a child when I heard two loud crashes.  Never having been around guns, I didn’t recognize gunshots.  To me it sounded like bombs being dropped on my house.  “Just a minute,” I said to the kid and rushed to my front door.  I went outside to find a police car blocking my drive, two others across the street and half a dozen police officers in my yard.

 “What happened?” I called.

“Go back inside,” one of them yelled, and I did.

I finished my therapy session and returned to the front door, this time to see the crime scene tape, police cars up and down the street and probably twenty officers milling around.  After being assured that it was safe for the child and his nanny to leave, I ventured into the yard.  One of the police officers came over and explained that a man on a bicycle had stolen a woman’s purse in a neighborhood across the Loop.  “He took off on his bike, got as far as West Bellfort, ditched the bike and ran into this neighborhood.”

Meyerland?  My safe, constable-protected neighborhood?

“The police chased him to your neighbor’s house.  He grabbed a pair of scissors from the woman’s bag and refused to drop them.  Instead he threw his jacket in the face of a police officer and then lunged at him with the scissors.  So the officer shot him.”

“And he’s…dead?”

“Yes, ma’am.   We’ll be here a while until the medical examiner takes a look at him,” he said, then added, “We’re sorry to inconvenience you.”

Is a dead person an inconvenience? I wondered as I trudged back inside.  I’ve spent the rest of the day in and out of the kitchen, peering out the window and watching the crowd gathering in my driveway.

 Uniformed officers.  Why are so many still here?  How many does it take to wait for the coroner’s office?  Why aren’t they out catching other criminals?

Men in suits have arrived.  They look like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the movie “Men in Black.”  Two have come to my door at separate times to take my “statement.”  No, I didn’t see the suspect.  Yes, I heard two shots.  I have to give my birthdate?  Geez.

“Was he a teenager?” I asked.

“He looks a little older.  We can’t move him or look for identification.  He belongs to the medical examiner now.”

What a bizarre way to put it, I thought.  It makes him sound like a package.  When the police captain left, I tried to make sense of this.  A few hours ago that man was alive, then he committed a petty crime and it’s all over.  Couldn’t the officer have shot him in the leg?  Was he a kid playing a prank, a gang member wanting money for drugs, a homeless man who was desperate for a few dollars?  Doesn’t matter now.  His life is over…and all for a measly purse.

Did the cop fear for his life?  Did the punishment fit the crime?

Please share your comments.


Epilogue:  The neighbor across the street has brought a rose bush to be planted where the man died.  I drove to a nearby nursery and bought one, too.






Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thought-provoking and well-written. I don't think he deserved to die, but what happened in the heat of the moment was not a sentencing in the court of law -- it was a real-world attack, and the officer seems to have responded as he or she was trained.

Lorena Sims said... [Reply to comment]

Oh my gosh! That must be terrifying seeing lots of cops and a dead body right in your neighbors yard. I wonder what was his story of why did he commit the crime. But I guess you're right it doesn't matter now, he's gone. The officer could have shoot him in the legs or arms instead but we never know.


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