I’m still not sure what I was thinking, or if I was thinking. But, it has me thinking (and writing in a stream of consciousness style- sorry).
I was headed back from the Wesley Center on Delphos where I had met with Dr. Robert Walker and Shallom Coleman and others to discuss ways to stop gun violence in our community. Gary Leitzell was there, as was Abner Orick, and other grassroots leaders. The effort is called CIRGV- for Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence.
I was on a scooter, wearing a bright yellow jacket. It was just before 8pm, and I was hungry as I headed East on W. Third. On my right, a young man appears, holding a rifle with a scope, much as we would on patrol when I was in the Army- walking at a brisk pace West on Third. He kept looking over his left shoulder and was clearly shaken.
I passed him, as I saw him cross the street to the North side. I did a U-turn and followed him as he headed North on Marion. I pulled up and asked him what he was doing walking with a gun. He didn’t seem to hear me- so I asked again, and said I’m talking to you. He looked at me as if I wasn’t there- and said “I’ve been robbed” and gestured to his right elbow that had a scrape. He was looking past me- I asked if he wanted me to call the police- he just kept walking- at no point did the gun come up. Or did he look like he could actually use it. It was a small caliber rifle, probably a .22, or maybe even a pellet gun.
My cell says I called 911 at 7:59pm. The first cruiser appeared in maybe 6 minutes. I was on the phone giving a description for 3. In that time, a woman came up the street who had also seen the same kid- she had on a Montgomery County Solid Waste t shirt.
I talked to her until we saw the first cruiser- which I flagged down- and pointed which alley our lone rifleman had scampered down. There were people sitting across Third watching the whole thing- a car, with tinted windows and big chrome wheels started to come down the alley I was in- while waiting for the cops, but turned around. Several cars that looked like they were a bit too nice for the ‘hood had also stopped and gawked. And, I’m sitting on a scooter in a jacket that makes me look like a bumble bee with a white bowling ball helmet for a head.
Two cruisers did a sweep- as did I. To me, the guys strategically standing on corners talking on cell phones looked clearly like sentries- the cars pulled up mid street at the intersections- in between the lookouts.
I came back around to the now, two cruisers- both with a single officer in them. They hadn’t seen him- but, then again, they wouldn’t get out of their cage and talk to people either.
I’m not faulting the officers- or their response time. It’s really an issue for the people who were on the street, and live their. No one else seemed to mind a guy running down the street with a rifle.
It’s probably not a good idea for anyone to do what I did. Best to speed up- and run away. Write the neighborhood off- as it seems we’ve already done.
I do think that we might have more effective officers if we pull them out of their cruisers, and instead- send them out on scooters in the summer. It’s amazing how much easier it is to talk to someone from a scooter, instead of from the inside of car.
But, ultimately, it comes down to the community. Are the sentries on the corner ok with you? The deals? The guns? Have the people who live along that stretch of West Third given up? Should we? I don’t think so.
Which brings me back to Dr. Walker and his initiative. He has his catalyst group working on the problem- when he has a plan, are you going to be part of the solution?
The problem won’t go away by doing nothing.