A Rookie’s First Homicide
The call came down as ‘shots fired’, which is nothing unusual. After two months of code-one shots fired calls that usually turned out to be bogus, I didn’t expect much.
The first car on the scene asked for more cars, and I could hear a lot of yelling in the background. This one wasn’t going to be bogus. My training officer, who was usually completely unexcitable, grabbed the mic and said “Adam twenty-five, we’re on the way.”
Other cars started announcing their arrival on the scene. Over the radio traffic I heard that EMS had arrived and was taking a male to the trauma center at Metro. My FTO told me to tell radio we’d follow the bus to the hospital.
We get to the hospital and he tells me to jump in and help the medics. I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I held the doors for them and helped them move the gurney. They had that plastic respirator thing that you have to squeeze by hand over his mouth. His eyes were open and rolled into the back of his head, and he was covered in blood.
They wheeled him into the trauma room and started cutting off his clothes. My FTO grabbed me and said “As soon as they get his clothes off, jump in and get whatever he has in his pockets; ID, phone, whatever.” I put on some surgical gloves and tried to stay out of the way. Dozens of med students started filing into the room, and the doctor in charge began narrating his actions.
They finally got his clothes cut off, so I jumped in and searched his pockets: a State ID, a lighter, and a couple of dollars. I left the room and went out to watch through the window, and I copied his information down on my run sheet. I looked back through the window and watched as the doctor cut open his chest and started doing whatever the hell they do inside a chest cavity. I heard him say that the male appears to have been shot five times. I looked on in morbid curiosity. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The guy’s scrotum was twice the size of a grapefruit. Apparently one of the shots severed his aorta; my best assumption is that the blood drained into his balls.
All the doctors seemed so nonchalant about the whole thing. Once in a while the doctor would make some kind of medical joke and all of his lackeys would chuckle. I must have looked a little perturbed; one of the nurses came up to me and said it was a teaching hospital, and that this guy had no chance of living. The doctor was trying to show them what to do in the future; they were basically using him for practice. He then looked at me and said “You’ll get used to it.”
The kid’s family and friends started showing up in the waiting room. They were hysterical; wailing, screaming, dropping to their knees and yelling obscenities. The kid’s mother was led to a room to be interviewed; the doctors wanted to sew the kid up before they let her see him. The kid’s best friend, who witnessed the shooting, went with her. A homicide detective showed up, so I led her to the room and just listened. It turns out that the mother had lost another child a few years earlier in another homicide. The detective remembered the names; she had worked the previous homicide too. The kid’s best friend rambled on and on, almost unintelligibly, about how some argument started, how some guys started shooting, how this kid had been his best friend since they were kids… I couldn’t understand anything else he said, he was sobbing too hard.
We got all the information we needed and started to leave. The kid’s father showed up, he already knew his son was dead. I shook his hand and expressed my sympathy. He was calm, resolute. He just shook his head.
We got back in our zone car, and my FTO asked if I needed help writing the report. I told him I thought I was fine. I asked him if this stuff ever bothers him. He said “Nope. I just pretend it never happened, like it happened to characters on a TV show. Don’t take this stuff home with you… you got to remember this happened to someone else, not you. You got to just pretend it never really happened.”
I notified radio that we were complete at Metro and that we were en route back to our zone. Radio replied “Adam twenty-five, we have a code-one domestic for you to copy in your patch.”
My FTO looked at me and said “Let’s go.”
“Adam twenty-five to radio, go-ahead with that assignment.”
The intention of this story is not to depict the law enforcement or the medical profession in a negative, insensitive manner. In both of these career choices, dealing with death is an inevitable part of the job. Learning how to deal with death is important. Many outsiders would probably think that a doctor telling a joke or a cop pretending like it happened to fictional characters would be insensitive and crass; I used to think that way too. In reality, it’s all just different forms of defense mechanisms, ways for people like us to accept these tragedies and move on with our work. How do you deal with it?