Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Going Nowhere

When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.

One of the guys in the Colfax hotel room answered the knock at the door. Bad move.

A street guy - someone they knew by sight and nickname - forced his way in. Disheveled, long hair uncombed, wild-eyed.... Though the backpack over his shoulder contained goodness knew what, the urgency in his voice did not suggest a discussion. "Get out, unless you want to be barricaded in here, too!"

"He has access to knives" said the guys who fled, terrified, to the desk clerk. "Big ones." The manager called 911.

First units on scene watched from a distance as the suspect tossed stuff through the windows. They described sounds similar to the room being "trashed," and then....

"This is the day for me to die," from inside.

We cranked up the machinery of caution and waited for our SWAT guys to gear up. They did...what they do, trying to get the guy's attention. A negotiator arrived and joined one of the teams, doing...what they do. Promises. Persuasion. Threats. No response from inside, and so they moved in. Two teams, practiced movements.... Did the guy bring a gun to the fight in his soiled, torn backpack? Only time would tell.

Back at the command post we stared at the schematic on the white board and waited. No one dare talk on the radio, for fear of stepping on a SWAT operator with something important to say. We fiddled with papers, reviewed checklists and tried to breathe.

"He's under a refrigerator," said the voice on the air. "We're freeing him now."

The man had tried to use the full-sized appliance to barricade a door. It had toppled over, pinning him. He couldn't have surrendered if he'd wanted to.

Too relieved to even chuckle, we folded up our gear and waited for the guys wearing the helmets to return. The realities of passing time, and changes in role keep me standing in front of status boards instead of behind cover beside the calm, calculating officers wearing Kevlar vests. Maybe it's best that way.

I don't have to like it.

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