“Nothing like that ever happens in this neighborhood.” How often do we hear someone being interviewed during a TV news segment say that? The thoughtless statement always makes me shake my head in dismay. Don’t folks know that there is a first time for everything?
I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for 43 years. (Obviously, I like the place.) During that time, I have never seen so much as a fistfight in our complex, not even among the children when they were growing up here. (Correction, I do recall one fight among two sisters.) Overall, ours has been a sedate place, where neighbors feel like family and look out for each other. The milieu changed yesterday.
It was around 10:15 a.m. I was doing what I normally do, sitting at my computer, zoned-out in my literary domain, composing essays that I hope would bring me extra bucks like they sometimes do. Suddenly, a deep male voice yells “Get your hands up!” And I nearly fall off my chair.
I had been so focused on what I was writing that the first time I heard the order I thought it was coming from the TV since the set was turned on. But the volume was low. Had the volume suddenly jumped up? I wondered. That thought got nixed when I looked over my shoulder at the screen to see an animated bear shaking its rear and singing about a clean hinny. Then, I heard the booming voice again. Shouting twice. “Get your hands up! I won’t say it again.”
In temporary bewilderment, I almost raised my hands, until it dawned on me that I was home alone, and my door was chain locked. That’s when my frayed nerves relaxed, and I realized that the voice was coming from outside my window. I got up from my chair and looked through the Venetian blinds. What appeared to be a platoon of police officers was standing strategically all over the yard and on the sidewalk outside the gate that surrounds our complex.
I backed away from the window, turned, and hurried downstairs. I opened the door, a few inches at first, in case shooting started, forcing me to retreat inside. After a few seconds, I summoned the courage and went outside on the porch. Some of my neighbors also began coming out. Cops were everywhere. Some of them guardedly glanced at us.
A young man who looked to be Hispanic and was wearing all black, including a black hoodie that partially covered his head was pinned face down on the ground beneath my window. One officer was handcuffing him while others stood vigilantly nearby. A second Hispanic man similarly attired, was being led through the courtyard. He, too, was handcuffed and flanked by a trio of officers. Both men appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties.
The commotion of what could have been filming for an episode of Cops was over in about 10 minutes, although some officers stayed around for at least an hour searching the grounds. During that time, a truck with “Investigation Unit” printed on its side arrived on the scene. I never found out what the two suspected lawbreakers did that led the cops to chase them onto our property, but I later learned from one of my neighbors that the cops found a gun near the trash bin. One of the two fugitives had accidentally dropped or purposely ditched the weapon after jumping the fence during the chase.
Yesterday’s event was the most attention-grabbing incident to occur in our neighborhood since one afternoon, in 1988, when a homeless advocate affiliated with Mitch Snyder’s CCNV climbed the 761-foot transmission tower (that is higher than the Washington monument) and hung a banner from it that read, “Housing Now.” We stood outside for a few hours, until sundown, as did police until the tower climber was eventually persuaded to climb down. He was promptly arrested.
Unfortunately, the state of this world provides no safe haven. Whether you live in a gated suburban community or an upscale urban neighborhood, you should never say never. Due to factors over which we have no control, none of us can predict what will happen from one minute to the next.