A shooting a mother and her baby…

The intersection of Vandeventer and St. Louis Avenue isn’t in my district.

I am not subject to calls that come out in that area, but my car had a tire that was running low on air.

I told the dispatcher that I was going to the police garage to have the tire filled and I put my mic into my bag. I was out of service now so I could relax for a little bit and enjoy the trip to the garage without having to worry about another call coming my way for a few minutes. I cranked up Billy Joel’s Piano Man and headed south on Vandeventer.

As is often the case with the best laid plans of a police officer, my relaxing drive was interrupted, almost immediately.

An officer in the adjacent district heard shots fired nearby. He was on the scene almost immediately.

A more veteran officer in my own district called out to the shooting as well.

I was nearby too, just trying to get some air in that tire of mine.

I could have gone around the whole scene to get to the garage, but I felt compelled to go to the shooting scene that wasn’t in my area and that was zero percent my responsibility. It may sound harsh, but shootings in North St. Louis are hardly rare. There would be plenty of other officers on the scene in no time, but I stayed my course on Vandeventer and ran right into the huge crowd of people gathering at the gas station where a woman and a man had just been shot.

I made my way through the crowd to the woman on the ground at the gas station.

She was young, maybe early twenties. I was hard to tell. The blood and mucus and other shit on her face made it hard to tell what she might look like on her best day.

She was unconcious and if she was breathing, it was too shallow for me to tell.

A complete stranger tended to her as she lay there dying.

“Sir, were you with her?” I asked.

“No. I was pumping gas and she was pumping gas. She got shot man”

He was talking to her.

“Keep that up, sir. Keep talking to her, the ambulance is almost here,” I said.

The crowd nearby was angry.

“Where’s the goddamn ambulance!?” A lady screamed. “Where’s the fucking ambulance?? We don’t need the fucking police, she need a ambulance!!”

“The ambulance is coming, ma’am. It’s on its way.” I assured this woman I sort of wanted to punch in the face.

I knelt down near the woman as she lay there dying.

Maybe she was already dead.

I thought she was.

“Keep talking to her sir, you’re doing great,” I told the stranger helping a young woman he didn’t know.

I still didn’t really know what had happened, so I asked the man tending to the dying woman what happened.

“She was pumping gas man. This is her car. Somebody came and shot her.”

It made sense now.

It’s hard to construct an incident in your mind when there are hundreds of people around yelling and screaming, but it started to make sense to me now.

Then I heard crying.

“What the fuck was that?” I thought to myself.

I stood up and looked into her car.

Kids.

Little kids.

Not even little kids, they were babies.

There were three, maybe four of them in the back seat of the car. I only remember three of them. One was asleep. The other two were awake, but not aware of what was happening.

They were so young and so tiny.

The ambulance showed up as I told a younger officer to get the kids from the car.

“Hand me that first one,” I said.

“Bring the other two over here so they don’t see their mom like that.” I’ve seen people in many states of alive during my fifteen plus years as an officer, and I was certain that this woman was at least walking to the light as I spoke.

The other officer, the one with twenty-seven years of service looked at me and spoke.

“There’s no way.” He said.

I knew what he meant.

The officer leaning into the car handed me the first baby as I’d asked and I walked with him over towards the police tape separating the scene from the crowd.

The boy was maybe eight or nine months old and he was sleeping.

“This is what sleeping like a baby must mean,” I thought.

He was maybe nine months old and handsome as handsome could be.

I cuddled him in my arms and wondered what my wife would say when I called her and told her that I was going to bring a baby home tonight.

In the middle of what can best be described as chaos, me, a forty-one year old white curmudgeon of a police officer held a nine month old black baby in my arms and nearly shed a tear.

I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve shed a tear in my uniform, and every one of them involved a police officer’s funeral and some bagpipes.

For whatever reason though, I nearly shed tears as I held a baby whose mother I was sure was dying on the other side of a Chevy Impala.

As he was awoken because of the crowd noise, I wondered how he’d react. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I wanted him to stay asleep through this whole ordeal.

He rubbed the sleep from his face, and as babies who are awaken from their slumber prematurely do, he looked around confused by what was going on. He finally joined the ranks of the fully cognizant and made eye contact with me.

Just as I thought he was going to cry, he smiled. He smiled so big that his pacifier fell from his mouth.

We shared a few smiles and coochie coos with each other before he decided he was wet or hungry or just plain wanted his mother instead of the stranger holding him right then and there and began crying.

It’s been a little while since I’d held a baby that small, and my skills had clearly eroded. In my defense, I didn’t have a bottle or a baby toy with which to distract him.

As EMS raised the stretcher with his mother on it, I covered the baby’s face by touching my forehead to his.

“Shhhhhhhhh,” I whispered. “It’ll be okay.”

The boy continued to cry and I knew I could never soothe him.

He wanted his mom just then. I knew that from my own experience as a dad.

I knew when my own kids wanted their mom, just as I’d learned to know when they wanted me instead.

Parents get it.

Believing that their mother was being put into the back of an ambulance never to be seen again, I rubbed that baby’s head and hugged him tight.

He stopped crying for a few moments and I put his binky back in his mouth.

I looked towards three other officers trying to console three other, older kids and suddenly felt sad for all of them.

I looked at the baby in my arms and without thinking, I told him that I loved him.

He looked at me and furrowed his brow. I felt awkward all of a sudden.

I’ve made it a point with my own kids to say I love you as often as I can, because I suck at saying it, so I have to make myself say what couldn’t be any more true in my heart. The disconnect there is one of those things I just don’t get.

The baby started to cry some more and a sergeant came over and took the baby from me so that I could tend to something else.

As I watched the kids, kids I assumed were brothers, trying to register what was happening, my heart sank.

I walked through the crowd to a mini mart and made my way inside.

All eyes were on me in an uncomfortable way.

“Do you have any juice or milk I can have?” I asked. “I’ll bring money tomorrow. I don’t have any cash right now, but it’s for the kids across the street.”

After I said that, the folks in the store relaxed and were very accomodating. “Here, here, here, take this. How many do you need?”

“Just one.” I said.

Only the one seemed old enough for a drink outside of a bottle. The others seemed too young.

I made my way back to the kids and extracted the straw from its wrapper and poked it through the hole as only a dad with ten plus years of service can do.

I knelt down and gave the oldest brother his drink and told him to promise me he’d take care of his little brothers.

“Be a good big brother, okay? I’m the oldest of my brothers. It’s an important job.”

He said he would.

He got it.

He knows what’s going on because I suspect he’s a kid who’s living a rough life.

The news crews came and did their interviews.

I watched from my car as the news crews turned off their cameras and made their phone calls.

By this point, I’d heard that the woman who was shot was in critical but stable condition.

I was stunned when I heard that.

God bless EMS crews and trauma units for what they’re able to do, because I’d have lost a lot of money betting that the woman I saw on the ground earlier was going to meet her maker very soon.

That she’s alive makes me happy.

While I have my doubts, I hope her near death experience will cause her to appreciate her life and love her kids as though she were dying, because last night on that gas station parking lot, she was.

 

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84 Responses to A shooting a mother and her baby…

  1. Paul says:

    Wow, Don, just Wow. You had me in tears reading this. I’m so glad that there are people like you out there.

  2. PatriotUSA says:

    Touching on life through the eyes, heart and soul that have seen too much violence, wounded and dead. Damn, well said, bless you and all those who helped this Mother and her kids.

    Thank you for trying and making a difference.

  3. barbtaub says:

    Reblogged this on Barb Taub and commented:
    A cop who reminds us that inhuman acts are sometimes balanced by loving humans.

  4. lrconsiderer says:

    Ohmigosh Don. Yeah I’m tearing up. Thank GOODNESS for the EMS crews and the strangers and the police and the store people and YOU! And thank God those kids have their mom back.

    Ouch ouch ouch. SO GLAD.

    • Yeah, I hope that having their mom back is the best thing. Might be, or it might not be. Either way, it was a miracle that she lived.

      • lrconsiderer says:

        Yeah…that’s not a great thought either. It’s astonishing that she lived and perhaps this incident will give her chances and viewpoints she didn’t have before…who knows. I just hope she appreciates her second chance.

  5. barbtaub says:

    Don, you’re living proof there is no such thing as too much love.

  6. Christina says:

    Another moving piece. I always thought how unfortunate that doctor’s and police seem to be desensitized. I understand now that the desensitization is nowhere near complete but a certain level is necessary to do the jobs you all do. Keep writing these stories. It’s important to hear.

    • You nailed it. I don’t generally think about the moment until it has passed and I’m alone at home with my beers. You have to be able to deal with the situation without letting emotion get in the way, but to ignore those emotions forever is why many cops die young I think. Yay for writing posts, and Thank you!

  7. You’ve done it again. Wow! Another great post. I hope the lady makes it.

  8. drewgilbert says:

    Thank you for your service, Don, and thank you for this story. I doubt very much I would be emotionally able to handle a night like that.

  9. Beautiful Don. I don’t know how you do what you do but I’m glad there’s people out there who do the hard jobs. And thank you for writing about it so we can all get a glimpse.

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    I know all too well how easily it is to bond with a child you’ve just met in a critical situation. Those moments stay with you forever. Whenever I conjure them, I go give my own kids an extra hug (which now that they’re teenagers they especially enjoy…)

    Another amazing post.

  11. Daphney says:

    Damnit Don. I’m crying in my Cheerios. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Reblogged this on West Coast Review and commented:
    Read this, today, now.

    Thank you Don for sharing this. Thanks. Hugs.

  13. jgroeber says:

    Oh, that feeling when you pick up someone’s baby and you just love that child. I wonder at what age we stop feeling that for one another, right? Because we need more of that (and more people reacting with kindness.)
    Is it ridiculous to hope that someday that woman has the voice and the means to tell her story, too? I’m glad for now you wrote your piece of the story.

  14. Twindaddy says:

    It’s a sad, fucked up world out there, Don. I don’t know how you do this day in, day out.

  15. DadGoesRound says:

    Wow. Don, what can I say other than the people of your city are lucky to have you, none more so than those kids in that moment. Good on you.

  16. The DADventurer says:

    Terrible story and very moving. Great that the mother is alive and the kids are OK thanks to you and your fellow officers.

  17. Three words… God Bless You.

  18. Kids get such a rough ride in life sometimes. I am with you, I hope she is able to avoid further violence and has a chance to raise her kids in peace. Thanks for the great story about being a dad to strangers.

  19. I can’t imagine doing your job. Thank you for doing it.

  20. Gypsy says:

    Why do I think that little boy will always remember the giant policeman who gave him some juice and told him to be brave? And yet you could have driven right past that call. Bless you for driving right to it.

  21. Theresa says:

    Wow. That’s all. Just wow.

  22. Thank you for your service, as a cop and as a dad. And for wearing both hats with integrity and heart.

  23. Reblogged this on Danielle Lenee Davis and commented:
    Don (of All Trades) has a way with words. He can make you feel like you were ‘there’, tug your heartstrings, or have you laughing out loud all in the same post. That’s not what’s happening here though. If he ever writes a novel he’ll have a reader in me! 🙂

    You’ve got to read his latest post.

  24. debnscott says:

    Amazing post, Don!

  25. Elyse says:

    You make me feel better for us as a species, sometimes, Don. The world is better off when there are strong folks with tender hearts.

  26. CARMAN MORICE says:

    You made me cry, Donnie. God bless you and all the police and emus people. May angels watch over you all. And may they watch over this woman and her babies too.

  27. Karen says:

    My eyes are welling. I’m fighting it. I’m losing.

  28. What a beautiful story, Don, thanks for sharing this. So sad for that mama, but so happy police officers like you and the EMT teams can help care for her and her kids.

  29. claywatkins says:

    I am glad you’re a cop, you’re doing what you need to do, in a place where you need to be. There are some awful things that go on out there – glad there are folks like you. Thanks, Don.

  30. mryjhnsn says:

    I have no words. Thank you for sharing and being there. We need more stories of great policemen.

  31. tric says:

    Hope you’re okay. This is real life and it’s not easy. x

  32. crap! oy vey! jeez! thank you for this heartbreaking yet strangely touching story. stay out there officer, you’re doing a damn good job at just being human.

  33. What a horrific scene! Poor babes. 😦 I can see why you thought about bringing the baby home with you. It’s hard to imagine our own children being faced with a similar situation. Nice job, officer.

  34. LaurenRN says:

    I’m from St. Louis. Not that particular area (South County) and I was warned early on by my homicide detective father to STAY OUT OF THE NORTH AND EAST SIDES. Things happen there that are unimaginable to most citizens; it’s very much like the Wild West. Anything goes, no one is ever truly “safe”. This is a reminder.

    I went to nursing school at Goldfarb – Washington University. I am currently an ER/trauma nurse in southwest Missouri. We don’t see much violent crime, but what we do see is devastating enough even after the first responders work their magic. I cannot fathom what you witnessed that night or any other night, for that matter.

    THANK YOU for doing what you do. You deserve more respect and recognition than you will ever receive, and which would most likely make you feel odd anyway. It’s your calling. It’s just what you do.

  35. Mental Mama says:

    You’re a good man, Don. I’m going to go cry in the corner now.

  36. Pingback: Tackle You - Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy

  37. Heartbreaking – for you, the kids and the mom. I hope they’re all going to be OK. You handled a rough situation very well. Kudos to you, Don. As a former reporter, I know how my heart broke when I talked a parent or sibling about a crime victim – dead or alive. It can wear you down. Don’t let it. 😉

  38. God, that was a punch to the heart. For everyone. Thank you, Don for sharing this, and just maybe helping to alleviate some of the pain for that family by allowing us to think of, send hope, light or pray for them.

    Thank you for being a decent man.

  39. markbialczak says:

    You are a good police officer Don, and that’s because you are a good man. Your dad instincts are what those kids needed at that gas station, right then and there. I am glad you are my friend through this blog world of ours, so I can tell you that I am proud of you. I hope the mom of these babies recovers and keeps teaches them to be good and wise, and the people in the streets somehow convene to allow them to be safe.

  40. kantal113 says:

    Powerful. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

  41. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    I love you even more because you told that little baby that you love him. xxoo

  42. Cheryl says:

    Snot and tears all over the keyboard again. ‘Nuff said.

  43. sassysavvysister says:

    Thanks for making me cry lol, OMG this was just so touching. You have a heart of Gold! Never change! I feel like I am actually there when you write!

  44. sassysavvysister says:

    Reblogged this on sassysavvysister and commented:
    This is by far the most touching story I have ever read! Have tissue!

  45. Maggie O'C says:

    So you’re just going for another pressing right out of the gate! Beautifully written. xoxo

  46. Lolly says:

    I have no words, but I seriously want to hug you right now ❤

  47. julie says:

    Holy cow Don!! You are a hero with a heart of gold!! Thank you for sharing!

  48. Reggie says:

    God bless you, Don! You are a wonderful human being. It gives me hope…

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