It’s a tuesday night…

“I’m scared. Please don’t leave me alone.”

I was standing over a boy with dark curly hair and big brown eyes.

He was sitting on the floor in a back room of a small, two family house with his back against a wall.

The boy was a handsome biracial kid, but the color of his face seemed off to me. It was too pale or something. I knelt down so our faces were about level and said, “You’re doing great, kid. You’re going to be just fine. I’ll be back in a few seconds, I promise.” 

I turned to walk back down the hallway, to the front room where I had entered the house, when the boy spoke again.

“Officer?” The boy asked before I could take a single step away from him.

I turned and noticed that the kid’s big brown eyes were even bigger than they were just three seconds earlier. They’d started to well with tears.

His eyes were pleading with me to do something. 

“Make things right again for me.” Is what I read his eyes to be saying. 

 I waited for him to finish his thought. 

“I’ve never been shot before.”

I nodded my head, then smiled at the boy. 

“Just hang in there; you’re going to be fine, you hear me?”

He smiled the best smile he could muster as he nodded back to me in response. I had one of the other kids stay and talk with my curly haired friend before I hurried back to the front room. 

While the boy with the curly hair and brown eyes was in the back room pondering whatever it is that fifteen year old boys ponder after getting shot in the hip, another boy was laying on his back in the front room, struggling to even take breaths, let alone speak. 

He was in much worse shape.

He was also a brown eyed boy, and his eyes were pleading as well. Not to me, necessarily, but to anybody who might make eye contact with them.

This boy’s eyes were afraid.

They scanned left and right, fast at first, and then slower and slower. 

He had every right to believe that if something didn’t happen for him soon, he was going to meet his maker. His face made me wonder if that’s what was going through his mind, and I felt sorry for him a little bit.

“Keep talking to him like you’re doing,” I told the girl holding his hand as he drifted closer and closer to death.

The girl on the floor with the boy was entirely too young to be dealing with this sort of bullshit. “Keep holding his hand and talking to him. You’re both doing great.”

I tapped the boy on his shoulder and spoke to him briefly.

“Keep your knees bent, son,” I said to him as he tried to straighten out his legs. 

“Keep your knees bent, the ambulance is coming,” I heard the little girl repeat to the boy on his back as I grabbed for my radio. “It’s coming, right?”

I nodded and gave her a thumbs up while I advised the dispatcher that the scene was safe for EMS to enter. 

Now the wait was on for these two boys, shot at the same time in yet another act of depravity towards human life over something quite stupid, I’m sure.

The boy in the front room had been shot in his stomach, at least one time. His blood was on the couch and the floor and he was fading pretty quickly with each passing minute.

He was struggling to breath a little bit, but he was doing well enough that I still had hope that his young life would not end right there in that front room.

I looked around the house and felt bad for all the kids I saw. Some were very young, and others were well into their teens.

Their faces showed shock and pain and fear and disbelief and frustration and anger. Some cried while others just stared in disbelief. Some asked if the boys were going to die. Some begged for somebody to tell them the boys would be okay. Still others stepped up valiantly to help their friends or relatives who’d been shot and answer questions about what happened.

I shook my head knowing that it wasn’t just the two boys who will be scarred by this shooting.

Everybody in that house will be.

EMS arrived and swept the two boys off to one of the best hospitals in the country, and I was certain that this was going to be an assault report, not a homicide.

I was wrong.

A crowd had gathered near the outer fringes of the crime scene, as they so often do.

Just about the time we had finished talking to witnesses and taking our notes, the crowd suddenly moved around the corner and up the street. 

I went to the end of the street and could see a couple of cars stopped in the road with some people gathered around them.

I heard screaming and braced myself for the worst. I thought there was going to be another shooting right there before my eyes.

No shots were fired, but a girl yelled something about somebody being dead.

Officers and onlookers alike ran up the street to where the cars had been. 

I would be lying to say I was even a little stunned when I saw what all the commotion was about.

A teenage boy lay dead on his back in somebody’s front yard, with his arm bent upward holding a cell phone in his hand.

The crowd was pushed back and yet more crime scene tape was put up in North St. Louis City.

It’s become old hat to hang police tape around these parts recently, but there we were again.

This boy was tied to the shooting around the corner, and just like that, the whole mess belonged to our Homicide Unit. I don’t envy them at all these days. The workload has to be staggering and their hours long.

As we stood in the heat of the night I made eye contact with another officer and shook my head.

“It’s a Tuesday night,” I said.

He nodded in understanding. 

The night had already been hectic, especially for a Tuesday. It was call after call after call.

My partner and I had already helped to find guns in a house during a search requested by the homeowner, we’d been to an aid call to assist officers who had to fight with a drug addict in the midst of a simple car stop, and we had to use a Tazer on a guy who threatened us with a hammer.

That was all before the sun went down and the triple shooting happened.

But everyone did what they had to do.

Evidence was collected and witness statements were taken. 

A wailing mother who already had to know the truth was told that her teenage son was dead, and just like that, the crime scene tape came down and everybody left.

Before too long, the spectacle was over and many in the neighborhood wouldn’t know what happened as they slept until they saw it on the news the next morning.

On my way back to suburbia that night, I pulled into a gas station to fill up and get myself a sweet tea.

I wasn’t in my uniform as I filled my cup with ice and eavesdropped on two young municipal officers talking about what a busy night it had been for them up to this point.

“I’ve already handled a car accident report and had to yell at some kids who were dialing 911 while playing on their mom’s phone,” one of the guys boasted to the other, who nodded and said, “Yep, it’s been one of those nights.”

I snickered to myself as I paid for my drink and walked out the door.

Kids playing on the phone and dialing 911 just to see what would happen and not because three of their friends had been shot? 

Now THAT’S a Tuesday night.

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66 Responses to It’s a tuesday night…

  1. barbtaub says:

    So what makes you do it Don? Why are you the one responding to 911 calls from kids being shot instead of kids playing at it? I’m sure those wounded kids were a lot more grateful for your being there and I know all of us owe you a debt that will never be repaid. But how do you explain it to your wife and kids and that guy who looks out your mirror every morning?

    • Oh good Lord, Barb, I would be driven mad to do this job anywhere else but in the City, in spite of all the insanity. What fun would it be to blog about soccer moms all the time?

      How have you been? Is all well in the Queen’s domain?

      • barbtaub says:

        The Queen hasn’t checked in with me lately–maybe because we spent most of the summer in Spain. That was beautiful, hot, and lots of fun. We’re back in (cold, wet) Glasgow now and I think it’s time to start planning the next trip. So all is good. Hope you and the family are all doing well.

  2. tric says:

    I suppose it’s what you signed up for but a night lint that must skew your view of the world.
    Stay safe and enjoy happy times (and a few bud lites)

  3. Paul says:

    Your perspective is one that really needs to be heard by everyone Don. Each of us occasionally has a death that crosses our lives and we do not see the patterns and the horror that you see daily. You and your colleagues are the only ones who see what we have done to ourselves from the ground level. Excellent writing -and a message that desperately needs to be heard up to the highest levels. A big THANK YOU to you and your colleagues for your service.

    • Thanks, Paul. People seem to enjoy the stories and the semi-unique perspective and since it helps me to get it off my own chest, I’m happy to oblige.

      • A random doctor writing in from India. I want to thank you for the service you provide and hope that you will always find the strength to hold on, no matter how hard it gets. Do keep on writing. For me as a doc, writing helps me unburden my own woes on a bad day… it is cathartic. It also helps keep you honest. And in an unfair world, sometimes a good man like you could use the extra support of a crowd of ‘random online people’ like me standing up and telling you ‘we know how hard it is for you and we really really appreciate the work you do.”

      • Sir, this may be one of the best comments ever and I sincerely appreciate it. Thank you for your service to others as well. I do find the writing cathartic, and when I get supportive comments as well, that’s icing on the cake.

  4. Sigh… What a scene. What a horrible night. Horrific really… all of it. And what really gets my heart beating faster? When I read about you getting gas… I immediately was struck with FEAR for YOUR life… ya know, because.

    Keep being the hero in these stories. I know you don’t think you are, but you are. And your gift of writing is a such a profound offering for us all who take in your view to a world we need to be aware of, and need to address.

    What a Tuesday night it was. My heart is twisted and heavy… I pray you were able to recover and restore YOUR heart and equip yourself for more Tuesday nights to come.

    Thank you. For all you do.

  5. firebailey says:

    I am so very glad you continue to write about the horror of what you (and others) see each “Tuesday”. That you are determined that these men and women will not be forgotten. Thank you for putting your life (and mental health) on the line each and every day to keep us as safe as possible

  6. Mandi says:

    Oh, Don. You do it to me every time. You make me love you even more. That’s a rough night. I’m sorry it’s one that is probably too familiar for you.

  7. The Cutter says:

    So maybe people in my office shouldn’t complain because the AC is up a little high?

  8. NotAPunkRocker says:

    So much loss for all involved, from life to innocence to security. Even though I know it’s your job, and you knew to expect certain things going into it, I do wonder how y’all find the strength to do this every Tuesday,.

  9. djmatticus says:

    Thank you for being you, for doing what you do, and for reminding us that there are good people in the world even in the darkest moments.

  10. jgroeber says:

    Such an absurdly tragic night. Again, I can’t imagine what witnessing this scene does to a child. I can’t imagine what it does to you. Thank you for doing what you do. Hopefully there were some Bud Light Limes waiting for you at home.

    • It was just stupid busy. I hadn’t had a night like that in a while. I fear those kids just get used to that sort of violence as normal and nothing ever changes. Thanks for the comment, Jen! I did have many BLL’s that night, yes.

  11. Mental Mama says:

    Good men (and women) like you give me hope that we really aren’t all going to hell in a handbasket. I raise my glass to you, good sir.

    • We aren’t! Well, maybe a little, but it can be turned around. Thank you for the cheers, I’ll drink right back at ya tonight for sure. Wait, was there booze in that glass? I assumed it was, but you didn’t say that necessarily.

      • Mental Mama says:

        It’s always safe to assume, with me anyway, that if I’m bothering to raise a glass there’s gonna be something in it worth drinking. 😉 Here’s hoping the Labor Day weekend was nice and quiet in your neck of the woods.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Keep it up, Don. The public and officers alike can get alot out of your writings.

  13. plaguedparents says:

    As someone above said, your perspective needs to be heard. I teach Criminal Justice, and I will be sharing your posts with my college students that aspire to be officers. It is a difficult job, yet a noble one. Thank you.

  14. OneBusyMama says:

    I always loved your blog, but every time I read a new post I love it and respect you all the more. I appreciate all you and so many others do for our cities and state and country. I don’t understand how people can devalue police who put their lives on the line for others every day. I love how there’s so much feeling in your posts.

    But I have to ask….how did you not snap at the guys complaining about their “crazy Tuesday night”?

  15. Gina says:

    I love reading what you write – not the nature of the content, but the honesty & compassion with which you write it. It helps me put things in my own life into perspective. Thank you for what you do!

  16. Without people like you this world would become evermore insane. I cannot imagine the demons you fight in your dreams, but in the light of day, you and all the others that follow in your footsteps have my greatest admiration and thanks, not to mention, respect.

  17. Melanie says:

    And St. Louis doesn’t even have the highest murder count for a city this year. Yet. There’s still time, and there’s a record to uphold.
    I will never forget the day I realized what it meant that I was growing up in a murderous city. It had always been out there that there were bad guys, but out there wasn’t where we lived, except it was. And then I started figuring shit out and life wasn’t so safe anymore. And then I was introduced to privilege when it was explained that was the city and we lived in the county.
    Good story. Sorry I rambled.

    • Lol, you my friend may ramble here anytime. St. Louis isn’t probably as bad as it’s made out to be, but it’s certainly not a place to be careless either. Crime happens everywhere, but the violent stuff in the city is way out of line. Hope you’re well. Best on your move too!

      • Melanie says:

        Keep doing the good work Don. And congrats on being featured on the news again. It’s good for people to read about cops who care.
        I am well, thanks! And very excited about the move. This will be a very good thing. 🙂

  18. Pingback: ‘I’m scared’ – Police officer recalls this week’s deadly St. Louis shootings - #1 Info Portal

  19. kevin says:

    how do you process it? I mean, how do you go home and brush it off and play dad and husband?

    I live 2 hours from St Louis, and I can’t imagine how you handle seeing this every day…. I wont let my family even go near that city

    • The bad thing about a busy urban police force is that there are always calls like this to be run to, but it’s also a good thing because there’s a chance to do better on the next call than on the call before. For every sad scene like the one described here, there are several moments of human decency that make everything seem a little more okay. Writing these posts from time to time helps me process and unload it as well. Kind comments from readers remind me that most people are still good at heart and want what’s just to win out in the end. Thanks.

  20. David K. M. Klaus says:

    I think this is the case in which the eleven year old boy shot the two who broke into his home. I hadn’t realized there was a third.

    Eleven years old, and he was forced to commit two acts of justifiable homicide and wound a third person. I cannot believe that he wasn’t a casualty, too.

    “God bless the child…” she sang. God bless the child. He’ll need it.

  21. Brad says:

    Don, I see you drive down our street everyday and can’t help but wave and think about what you are up against that day. Your writing is very touching to many! I couldn’t imagine doing what you do. Keep up the great work and it’s an honor to call you my neighbor!

  22. Yvonne says:

    Always keep you and other officers in my prayers. Love you Don! Your writings are exceptional!

  23. Just wanted to tell you, i’m a dislatcher and my husband is an officer. We just started a blog as well so I know how hard it can be to write down and portray the emotions, sights, and sounds that you felt that night but you did a great job. It’s definitely something that people need to know, but few people ever hear about or take the time to understand. My husband has told me stories like this and every one is as sad as the next. Thank you for all you do for the community. There are those that appreciate your service. Stay safe out there.

    • Thanks to you and your husband for serving as well. A great dispatcher makes the night sooooooo much better! Where do you guys work, if I may ask? Telling these stories is cathartic for me. They write themselves, really; all I’m doing is putting the words on a page.

      • Well I appreciate your appreciation for dispatchers! Honestly though, if we have good officers then our shift goes by much better. I think it’s integral for the dispatchers and officers to have a good relationship. At least a positive understanding with one another. I have found writing to be much more cathartic than I had originally thought. I started because with all the stuff going on I was getting very anxious every night sending my husband to work but writing has seemed to help that. It keeps my mind busy so there’s less time to imagine all kinds of horrific scenarios. Is there a way to privately message you the area I work? Dispatcher Blue and The Blue To My Gold is anonymous so we can speak our mind and not get in trouble at work. My husband’s department especially would probably not like the honesty that will be put into our blog. You know how that is.

  24. Jolene Huff says:

    Thank you for putting yourself in harm’s way to protect America. Shields high.

  25. Scott says:

    I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t. I don’t think I could survive the repeated heartbreak of such nights.

    Take care of yourself, Don. Thank you for showing us the side of being a police officer the news won’t share.

  26. Lillian Patterson says:

    When I read the officers message on another Tuesday night, it brought tears to my soul. I have so much respect for most of the police officers that puts their life on the line, their sanity, and heart on the line for us all the time. Even when their not on duty. Why I say that is because the shit they see, the bodies of babies, young adults, the elderly just damn sinceless crimes. They have family’s to so is got to be hard for them at times. I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t I know this, I’m just not strong enough. So the next time when you get pulled over are for any reason may have to deal with a police man or women. Have patients need polite as possible I’m not saying kiss ass but if they seem cranky or in a bad fucken mood well maybe they just left a scene of a crime of another since less crime. Or what happens the day before maybe even last week is still bothering them. They see the shit we don’t even want to think about net alone see. Imagine the chaos there would be if not for law inforcement. Be safe

  27. Another Don says:

    I have lived in metro St Louis and St Louis county. As A young man I interacted with both St Louis Police and some of the crappy little little excuses for police departments in places like Vinita Park Overland etc. My crime? Being poor, working second shift and driving a beat up car at night.

    In my opinion the members of the St Louis police department are “real” police. They don’t have the time or inclination to make a big deal out of a burnt out tail light. If you or your car fit the description from a crime. A quick record check, advice to get it fixed and you are on your way. These guys and gals have real crimes to address.

    The same thing at the hands of most of the pretend cops in the county will usually involve three or more cop cars people digging through your belongings and as often as not tickets for a half dozen things wrong with your car. We need more real cops in the county instead of the clowns pretending to be cops now.

    Like most people I saw what happened in Ferguson. I don’t agree at all with the actions of the people involved. Unfortunately after being on the receiving end of what passes for small town justice i can’t blame them.

  28. markbialczak says:

    Oh, Don, you help the best way you know how. And they need you so much. I’m glad you still have it in you, my friend. Enjoy the rest of this weekend with your lovely wife and kids.

    In another direction, Go Cards! Maybe your Redbirds and my Mets will meet in the postseason like in The Day.

  29. Paul says:

    As an aside Don, I did another guest post – this one over at Barb Taub’s If you have the time to drop by I would be honored. Thank You.

  30. Hoosier Rider says:

    A good read. Dare I say, your blogging skills are sweet as your cat like skills on the luke warm corner of a big balls kickball field. It’s bittersweet to see you have to see you go back up north for a spell. Yet, fret not firefly. I will keep lobbying for you to join the downtown beats, where the insanity level may be just as high but it’s definitely much more of a positive patrol sector than the brutally cold hearted north side.

  31. flyingplatypi says:

    You are much stronger than me. But I have a 30 min cry every time that damn aspca comes on playing its god damned Sarah Mclachlan music.

    Great job out there!



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