"You can't force yourself to overlook something that goes against your principles, and you can't change your experiences to fit someone else's life." -- Stephen Mack Jones, "Lives Laid Away"

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Shelter in Place!

     This happened just the other day. It was late afternoon, starting to get dark. I was home alone. My wife was out running errands. I noticed a cop car parked across the street, lights flashing. At first I didn't think anything of it. We occasionally have cop cars parked at our corner because it's a school crossing and the cops like to keep an eye on things.

     Then I thought, uh oh, maybe it's the woman across the street. She's elderly, pushing 90, and maybe something happened to her. But the next time I looked out the window I saw her walk onto her front porch, look around for a few seconds, then go back inside.

     A few minutes later the phone rang. I looked at caller ID (because I don't answer the phone if I don't recognize the number), and it was B. "I can't get home," she said. "The street is blocked off."

     There was a cop blocking the street, she reported. And the other entrance into our neighborhood was closed down as well.

     As we spoke on the phone I got up from my desk and peered out the window, then went around to the guest bedroom and spied out the other way. I saw cop cars, lights flashing, lined all the way down the street, starting at my house and going out toward the main road.

     "Oh, boy, something's going on," I said to her. "Maybe it's an accident? Or a medical emergency?"

     It was obvious this would take a while. We decided B would turn around and go over to Panera's and have a cup of tea.

     I hung up the phone, and about five minutes later it rang again. Caller ID said it was from the township. So I picked up the phone. And that's when I heard the recorded announcement: Due to police activity in my area, I was warned to shelter in place.

     So I called B back. She was in Panera's, and she'd had an opportunity to check in with the neighborhood women's group. The texts were flying. There was a shooter. A number of people had reported shots fired in the neighborhood. No one knew anymore than that, except my next-door neighbor was panicking because she had six neighborhood kids in her basement. They could see the lights of the cop cars out the basement windows, and knew there was a shooter on the loose.

      I checked our local news website. There were reports of gunfire coming from a house -- a house just around the corner from us. No injuries were reported. There was a young man involved. The news story claimed the incident was confined to one house.

     Next I surveyed the street as best I could, peering out from window to window. I saw a man in what looked like full combat gear sneaking around the house across the street in back of us. Down the street I saw a van with three -- no, four -- people crouched behind it for protection.

     A few minutes later an armored truck slowly rumbled down the street. It stopped. Then it started up again and moved down to the corner. The back of the truck opened and four or five fully armed men hurried out the back. They gathered on the corner, conversed with one another, checked on their radios.

     After a few minutes the men climbed back into the truck, and the truck turned the corner and continued down the street.

     I saw several other cops walking up ad down the street. A few were in combat gear, others wore blue uniforms with bullet-proof vests. The van stayed where it was, with the cops huddled behind it, surveying the area, keeping watch.

     I called B again. She'd been busy texting with her neighborhood friends. There was a young man, hyped up on drugs, who'd been shooting out the window of his house. Apparently the situation was now under control. She'd call me back as soon as she heard more.

     Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw a few of the cop cars turn and head out. B called me back. She was coming home. More cop cars left, until the street was dark. That's when I noticed that none of the houses along the street had turned on their lights. Everybody, it seems, was lying low.

     A little later a line of headlights appeared on the street. People coming home from work. They were now allowed in.

     B showed up and settled in. We had dinner. Her church activity scheduled for that evening had been canceled, due to the police activity. The school on the next block also canceled its evening program, a concert by the kids. We later read that while school had been let out before the incident occurred, there was a group of kids in an after-school program that were subject to the shelter-in-place order. The school went on lock-down.

     The news the next day summarized:  "No injuries were reported in conjunction with the incident, which unfolded just after 3:45 p.m. The police responded after reports of continuous gunfire in the area. When officers arrived a standoff situation ensued and 'numerous' shots were fired from inside the house, police said. The standoff ended just after 5:30 p.m. A 21-year-old man who lives at the home surrendered and was taken into custody."

     We don't know the young man, or the family that lives in the house. I guess we'll never know the details of the situation. But the basic problem is obvious. There was some mixture of drugs, mental illness and ready access to a gun that precipitated the crisis.

     We're always surprised when something like this happens. But we shouldn't be. We have more drugs, more mental illness and more guns than we've ever had. Shouldn't we do something about it?


Wisewebwoman said...

Wow Tom I'm glad you and B are OK. Far too close for comfort indeed.

I remember an incident on my street in Toronto, a really quiet street when a gunman (drugs too) left his home and started shooting up the sidewalks, huge chips taken out of them. We all huddled while the police took him away.

And the really weird thing was we heard no more about it. Every time I passed along the side walks I'd see the chunks missing from those bullets and there was nothing on media or from the police. Ever. As if it was too frequent an occurrence to give it airtime.


Terra said...

That is too much excitement. It sounds like it all ended peacefully. Yes too many drugs and untreated mental illness, young people being drugged by doctors at very young ages, it is a problem. Guns can be great tools of self defense.

DJan said...

So many guns everywhere. I have been fortunate so far not to be exposed to any of the kinds of events you describe here. But it could happen at any time. Glad everyone is okay.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, that is right out of SWAT. One of those things we never think can happen to us. So glad you are all right and no one was hurt. I only hope we can do something about it for it s becoming entirely too common place.

Tabor said...

So glad you are safe. We cannot remove all the guns from mentally ill people until we have a Congress with a backbone. Now they are spending time hiding bills.

tahoegirl.blog said...

That is so scary. I'm glad you were safe and B was at least able to go to Panera.
we must have stronger gun control. Where will it go?? Why are politicians in the pockets of the NRA.

Diane Dahli said...

These are scary times, Tom. I'm happy that both you and B are safe, and that life is back to normal. But you are right—too much mental illness, and too many guns. We can all be thankful for the police, and what they do.

David @iretiredyoung said...

Very scary, I'm glad it turned out mostly OK, and that eventually there will be positive steps on the issues that cause such scenarios, all three of the issues you mentioned in this case.

Pam said...

We are living in scary times. Glad that no one was injured, but what about the psychological damage these "close calls" inflict--esp on our youngsters. I wish something could be done about guns, but I also know there are limited live-in facilities for the mentally ill, and if you find one, it might be tough to pay for it. Our country is in dire need of responsible leadership!

Tom said...

Like wisewoman suggests, we'll likely hear no more about the incident. But if we do, I'll pass it along. Thanks for everyone's concern -- and as everyone says, thank god no one was hurt. A couple of neighbors even scoffed that the police overreacted, since the young man never even left his house. But how would anyone know that, esp. in the beginning? And we have lots of kids in the neighborhood. So I say, better safe than sorry.

Celia said...

Scary stuff, glad everyone (except the shooter) is okay. And it's not just mental illness. If there are people on drugs, there are people selling them, and if you live in a small town like ours their activities aren't always on "the other side of the tracks." They seem to have a predilection for shooting at each other and not caring who gets in the way. I for one, welcome our police interventions.

Anonymous said...

Tom, I hope you can send your description of this episode to your elected officials - local, state and federal - as an example of why they need to take effective action to improve access for addiction treatment and prevent access to deadly weapons for untrained, unlicensed and unstable individuals.

Mildred Ratched said...

I'm so glad you and your wife are okay, but something should have been done about this long ago. Nothing about mass shootings is okay and nothing about untreated mental illness and drug abuse is okay. But sometimes one has nothing to do with the other unfortunately. We need stricter gun laws. We don't need assault rifles on the streets and in the hands of people who will use them to kill random people. As long as the politicians are in the pocket of the NRA things just won't change. It's up to us to change them! We need to vote the politicians out who won't stand up to the NRA. PERIOD! It's up to us! It's really that simple. We, the people put them in office to represent us, right?

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Wow! That sounds like a scary night. It can happen anywhere. In big cities and tiny towns. We really need to get over the obsession for guns and drugs and mental health needs to be dealt with. We're better than this.

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

Sadly, this is becoming too common. And yet, we continue to do nothing because a right to own a gun is apparently more important than your right to live.

Laurie Stone said...

Wow. What a story. Sadly, this is life in America now. No place is safe -- schools, churches, movie theaters, stories, and now our own neighborhoods. So sorry you and your wife had to go through that. Sounds scary, but thank God, everyone's safe.

Carol Cassara said...

This is such a sad sign of the times.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you glad you retired/relocated to a 'safer' place?

I live in rural upstate New York.
Each and everyone of my neighbors has at least 1 shotgun.
During hunting season, you can hear the gunshots go off as the hunters practice in their own backyards.
When I did research on the crime rate in my area there was only 1 time in the last 50 years a police officer was called. The only crime ever committed here was an accidental shooting by a gun owner wounding himself while cleaning his own gun.
Sort of busts your theories.
No mental illness. No drugs. No more guns than necessary.
Everyone should carry a weapon.
Then and only then will everyone be safe.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Tom, I didn't know you lived here in Baltimore. That is a daily and sometimes hourly occurrence here. If not drugs, then gangs mixed with mental illness and a judiciary system that believes a criminal with 10 convictions deserves another chance.

Linda Myers said...

Sounds like the police had been trained and ready for such an incident. Interesting evening!

Kay said...

Holy Smokes! That is so darn scary! We keep hearing about more gun violence everyday, BUT NOTHING gets done!

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