It’s *his* story, but it’s also mine. Because that night, many years ago, we were the second people he called after he shot and killed a man. We were there with him, all night, as he paced and paced, and talked and talked, and we listened.
My friend, a police officer, had drawn his gun in the line of duty, and pulled the trigger. And that act ended the life of another human being.
I wasn’t there when the shooting actually occurred. But I was there with my friend, right after he’d been cleared to go home by his superiors. We were there, all night, listening to him talk. Listening and supporting a man who I, to this day, trust with my very life.
And I can tell you this: my friend wasn’t happy he’d shot someone. But he knew he’d done the right thing.
Even tho the person he’d killed had been acting strangely, like he was hopped up on drugs, and even tho that person, now just a body to be processed and probed, had been carrying a weapon and posed a threat to the safety of my friend and his fellow cops and the lives of the people in the area where it happened: my friend questioned his every move. Did he do the right thing? Could he have done something different?
In the wake of #Ferguson, and also the anniversary of this event, I asked my friend if I could write about it for my blog. At first he was hesitant. He wanted to know how my writing about this would help (and used three question marks). I responded: “Well, it helps me voice my opinion. It helps people see another side to the issue of police shootings.”
He asked what I remembered, and I wrote:
I remember we were almost asleep when you called and said you’d shot someone. That they were DOA. We got dressed and flew down the road to your house. You paced. You paced. We sat. All night. You were proud of your marksmanship, how you’d gotten him right in the heart. How your muscle memory from training kicked in. That you had told him to drop his weapon and he didn’t. That your partner wasn’t close enough to do anything. So you pulled your gun and shot. And you didn’t know if you’d done the right thing. But that you also knew you had. That the investigation would prove you were in the right. That something was off with that guy. That you were a warrior, and a protector, and you were doing your job.
And I believe that to this day. My friend did his job. He protected himself and the lives of those around him. He stopped a kind of evil in its tracks. (And yes, the investigation proved him in the right.) (And yes, he said I could tell this story.)
Clearly, I don’t know all the details about his shooting. And I never want to know what it feels like to kill another human being. And I really don’t know many of the details about Ferguson, because I don’t think I can trust the media or the many differing “facts” and the opinions and the slander and fear-mongering. And I’ve refrained comment until now.
Until now, the anniversary of my friend’s shooting, a time when my friend thinks about it. A time when I think about it.
I do know there are bad cops, just like there are bad teachers and bad siding salesmen, and there are idiots who put explosives in their shoes, and horrible people who abuse children, and others who try to work the system, and people who are so angry when things don’t go the way they want that they destroy the things around them…
There are also good people. There are good cops. Guys and gals who put their lives on the line every day. Like my friend, who shot a man carrying a gun who otherwise might have gone on to shoot someone innocent. A little girl. Your mom. Your dog. The clerk at your favorite store.
I don’t know what Police Officer Darren Wilson thought as he pulled the trigger, sending the bullets that ultimately ended the life of Michael Brown. But if he’s anything like my friend, he was responding to the situation in the way he’d been trained.
And it all makes me sad. I’m sorry that the residents of Ferguson are hurting. I’m sorry that normal citizens no longer feel they can trust the police, which makes the forces’ jobs that much harder. I’m sorry that my friend and that Officer Wilson both felt they had to discharge their weapons. And I’m sorry that people died as a result of those actions. I’m sorry that families lost a son, a friend, a brother.
I’m sorry there is a lack of empathy and compassion for everyone wrestling with what happened. (Read Chuck Wendig’s post on “Cultivating Empathy” and Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post, who say it better than I can.) I’m sorry that the protesters resorted to violence. I’m sorry that skin color is still such an issue in our country.
I’m sorry, and I’m sad. It’s a grief that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me.
When horrible things happen, I often think of the quote “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Well, I refuse to let evil triumph. Although this is just one small candle to light the darkness, here it is: another side of the story.
Some say it’s the strong who survive
Sometimes I wonder if there’s any truth to that at all
I’ve been lucky and that’s a fact in a crazy world
I’ve led a charmed life
I know judges and I know priests
I know gangsters, bad cops and lawyers too
But I don’t need none of them to sing this song
I’ve led a charmed life…
~Mike Ness, “Charmed Life”
Note: per my friend’s request, his name and any identifying information about his shooting, as well as the location, etc., have not been included in this blog post. Just my remembrances from the night it happened. He also reviewed this post and allowed me to publish it.
Also note: I welcome civilized discourse on this topic. I will immediately delete any comments that I consider inflammatory or vulgar or inappropriate. #PrayForFerguson #PrayForOurCountry