Thursday, January 5, 2012

Neighborhood Shooting

A man was shot to death in his own home a few blocks from where I live. Here is what the newspapers reported: A woman had called the police. She was already outside her house when they arrived. She told them her husband was inside and that he had a gun. For four hours, the police tried to phone the man and contact him using a bullhorn. He never responded. Finally they stormed the house and found him dead inside.

After the shooting, the local government sent automated phone calls to everyone in town telling them that the public had not been in any danger. That's what they said after they found the man dead, but for four hours the police were pretty sure the public might be in very serious danger. They closed off the streets and told everyone to stay in their basements. They evacuated some nearby residents in an armored vehicle. They set up a command post in a nearby church to coordinate about seventy five police officers from about a dozen nearby towns. They posted spotters in the windows of the house next door to the dead man's house.

Whether there was an actual threat of violence to the man's wife or to anyone else, the fear of deadly violence was justified, and it had an effect. That effect did not vanish when the “all clear” phone calls went out telling everyone that the situation had been “resolved.” People will remember for a long time that one of their neighbors was armed and dangerous and that they had been confined to their homes so that they wouldn't get hurt by the man or caught in police crossfire. The coroner's report that the shooting was a suicide was not released until a week after the shooting.

A month prior to the shooting, a group of people in my town had started planning to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords by holding a meeting at a local church. Several area clergy agreed to speak. We all figured that it would be a good idea to talk about violence before there was a tragedy in our town and we found ourselves saying, “We never thought it would happen here.” Then it happened here, a week before our meeting was scheduled to take place.

The meeting will be this Sunday, January 8 at 2:00 pm at St. Norbert Church, 1809 Walters, Northbrook, IL. It is free and open to the public. I have no idea how many people will attend. Maybe people will come because the recent shooting alarmed them or maybe they will decide that they don't need to attend because the situation has been resolved. I'll be there. I hope you will, too.

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