I was directing traffic before a Cardinal’s baseball game when I got the news.
“Did you hear about the nonsense?” An officer stopped at my intersection in a golf cart asked me.
I hadn’t heard about anything to do with the police department up to that point in my day, and I wondered what it could be.
With law enforcement, it could be literally anything.
It was the worst thing.
“Langsdorf was shot and killed,” the officer said.
Langsdorf is Mike Langsdorf.
It was Mike Langsdorf.
Mike was a friend from our time in the old Third District. We worked together in South St. Louis many years ago.
He was a friend to me and he was a friend of many other first responders as well.
Mike Langsdorf loved being a police officer, and I mean he loved it more than most of us do.
It was just in his blood to wear the badge.
It was in his blood to help people.
Mike spent the bulk of his career arresting the most violent of offenders, oftentimes in the most violent and underserved of our city’s neighborhoods.
He was very good at his job, beyond just the arrests as well. He was there for any police officer or citizen who needed him, young or old, black or white.
He was a mentor to many young officers and hero to countless citizens he helped over the years.
He was a hero to this little guy who needed him the night his family home caught fire and his own daddy had to throw him from a roof to save his life.
Mike was good with this kid when he needed him to be because he knew what to do.
He knew what to do for him because Mike was also a dad.
Perhaps most tragically, Mike leaves behind kids who will never again feel the comforting embrace of his hugs or see his face at all their future special occasions. They will always wonder what dad would have thought about this or that and never know from him just what it was dad was thinking.
They won’t get to hear anymore of his dumb dad jokes.
They won’t see him at their graduations.
They won’t see him at their weddings.
They won’t have him around when they go to the beach or the zoo or to the lake or even just out to dinner ever again.
That was all stolen from them.
It was all stolen from them in one minute and sixteen seconds.
That’s how long he struggled with a man who ultimately shot him to death to escape being arrested for trying to pass a bad check at some shithole convenience store that serves people who mostly could give two fucks about the police, but sure will call us first when they need any sort of help.
Mike was always willing to be the guy who answered those calls.
After the officer in the golf cart told me that Mike had been killed, we were joined at the time by a female officer who also worked with Mike in the old Third District. She caught wind of what we were talking about and immediately had tears in her eyes, because she already knew what happened.
It’s one of the queer things about policing, but even with tragedy less than an hour old, life goes on.
Calls for police still needed to be answered.
Crimes still needed to be solved.
While thousands of people waited happily for a baseball game to start, a handful of police officers had to continue directing traffic and tending to the security of a large event like a MLB game with news of Mike’s death fresh on our minds.
We struggled to focus on the tasks at hand while trying to get the facts on what happened to our friend.
Why was our friend dead?
What were his last moments on this earth like?
Fortunately, but more honestly, unfortunately, we know what his last moments were like.
We all know.
Perfect strangers know.
His coworkers know.
His friends know.
His family knows.
His kids will also know.
Everybody knows because as he laid on the cold, hard floor of that store, where employees had just called for him to come and help, which he did, they took a video of it.
A police officer in uniform is shot.
He is dying.
His blood is pooling under him and he is clearly dying.
A man, a human being, is dying in front of you and the one thing you think to do is to get out your phone and live stream his death to thousands of morbid onlookers.
This is our culture today.
There is a lot of anger at the woman who videoed our friend dying, and rightfully so. Some of the comments on her feed were disgusting and typical of what you’d expect from the sort of people who probably frequent that store and are friends with this lady on Facebook.
There is a lot of anger at local media as well, because many of them posted links to this disgusting video on their own websites or social media pages.
They deserve any backlash they get for using the death of a police officer to boost page views and clicks.
I don’t know when society began to lose all its couth, but it can become frustrating, if you let it.
I’m choosing to take the high road for now and try to see the good in what I saw in a video I wished I’d never seen.
The woman did have some genuine concern in her voice, I think. Others held Mike’s hand and I think they may have prayed for him as he lay there as well.
Unlike the man who lay dying before them, I just don’t think the people in the video knew what to do in an emergency, so what may look to many of us like indifference, could very well just be panic or shock or whatever.
For now, that’s what I’m choosing to believe.
It’s not easy to see any good in this situation for sure, but if anybody would have wanted us to at least try to do so, it would have been Mike.
Rest in peace, brother.