Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Murder on Hillview Road"

       Witnessing a murder is only something you read about. My girlfriends and I were on our way home from an enjoyable evening. It was 2:10 in the morning. As a 32-year-old, it still felt great to be single and carefree. Lynn, my good friend since we were young teen-agers, was driving her two-door Honda hatchback. Marie, our other childhood friend, fell asleep in the backseat. I dozed off in the front passenger seat.
Suddenly, I felt Lynn anxiously tapping my arm. She urged me to wake up and take a look at the scene on the corner. We stopped at a signal at the corner of Hillview Road and Connecticut Avenue. Several young men, appearing to be in their early 20’s, were involved in a fight with two other young men at the bank on the corner. I told Lynn we needed to help.
            When we rolled down our windows and started yelling, several of the men ran away. In spite of our hollering, two of the assailants continued to attack the other two and now threaten us.  Lynn and I responded with more shouting and screaming. As the victims attempted to back away, one of the assailants stabbed each of them several times. The two victims landed flat on their backs, on the street near my door. One assailant fell to his knees and continued stabbing.
I jumped out of the car and stretched my body across the two victims. With my head facing the ground and the bodies under me, I could clearly see an assailant’s shoes. He swiftly moved around me, proceeding to violently kick each of the two victims. Fortunately, he did not touch me. All of a sudden, he stopped his attack. Lynn jumped out of her car, grabbed her baseball bat from the trunk and chased the two assailants away. Marie, too terrified to move, stayed in the car.
            With the assailants out of the picture, I asked the two young men their names. They responded, “Bobby,” and “Scott.” As I kneeled between them, holding one hand in each of each my own, I continued talking with them in an effort to determine exactly why the attack happened.
Bobby and Scott were drinking heavily at a pub across the street near the bank. They ran out of cash and went to the bank for more drinking money. As it turned out another young man, of African American and Caucasian descent, was also at the ATM. Apparently Bobby and Scott, both white males 23 years old, began shouting racial insults at him. They were unaware he was accompanied by several friends waiting for him in the car.
            Observing Bobby and Scott’s bloodied clothing revealed the severity of their wounds. I requested someone to call an ambulance and the police. Several cars drove over the sidewalk around us, quickly speeding away. A young woman with long blond hair came running up, pleading with me not to let Bobby die. I told her to get away; shortly thereafter another friend came to her assistance.
Scott repeated, “Please don’t let me die.” All at once, Bobby’s hand felt less firm in mine. I looked into his eyes, watching as he gazed into the distance. I wondered, “What is he watching?” His handsome young face became less drawn, somewhat softer. A slight smile curved his lips in an upward direction. I laid my head on his chest, feeling one final beat of his heart. Lynn came running up and as I pointed to Bobby, I told her he just died. In the background, I heard screams of the young woman with long blond hair. Later, we learned she was Bobby’s girlfriend, the mother of their infant child.
            The ambulance and police arrived shortly thereafter. The entire area, including Lynn’s car, was taped off. The sleeping bag, Lynn provided as cover for Bobby and Scott, was confiscated as evidence. Detective Kathryn Anderson escorted us to the police station. There, we were asked to detail our story several times and finally, at 6:00 a.m., Lynn, Marie and I were allowed to return home. The night was long and cold. As I sat in a hot bath, the events of the entire evening played over and over in my head. I kept asking myself, “Did this incident of racially driven violence really happen?”
            A tremendous feeling of stress fell heavily on the shoulders of Lynn, Marie and me. We feared the assailants would not be captured, allowing them to be free after committing such a crime. Detective Anderson was able to piece together enough evidence to identify and apprehend the alleged stabber. She tracked the activity at the ATM that night, which led to his identification.
Despite his youth, he was 17 years old; Detective Anderson was familiar with his long-standing criminal record. Shortly after he was picked up, we were asked to identify him in a police line-up. The line-up at the juvenile detention center was disturbing.
A two-way mirror was not provided and the young men could clearly see us. In fact, one winked at Lynn. Lynn quickly and accurately identified the perpetrator, thereby confirming Detective Anderson’s findings. When the assailant was identified, the young men in the line-up were brought through the lobby, where the three of us were sitting. Naturally, we were the objects of their attention.
Lynn, Marie and I, provided a most admirable scenario for the police who acknowledged our contributions in bringing a criminal to justice. “Three young women came to the aid of victims whom they never met.” In the end a murderer was sent to prison.
Each of us was honored with a letter from the Chief of Police, a Certificate of Valor, and a poster-sized acknowledgement, from the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice, and the State. This was for outstanding service to the community and state and for heroic action in support of criminal justice. We were also presented with a Resolution Award from the mayor, commending us for our exemplary and heroic citizenship.
            Lynn, Marie and I have known each other since 1973. Our families are very close. We were raised with the same set of values, adopting a sense of responsibility, motivating us to aid and assist when necessary. If given another opportunity, I am certain each of us would once again help someone in need. This incident helped shape me. I am privileged to be an integral part of life, understanding the domino effect we have on one another.

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