So yeah.

I don’t have anything to say about the Aurora shooting, so I haven’t been saying anything because to say something without saying anything seems kind of — I don’t know — cold. So here’s a tiny little post to say nothing other than I’ve been thinking about what happened, the victims, guns, love and hate, that time I almost encountered a shooter, and WTF we’re supposed to do about shit like this.

The Long, Hot, Colorado Summer

Colorado is pretty much a total shitstorm right now. It’s been in the 90s and 100s for days, and the hot temperatures will continue into the foreseeable future (the current weather.com 10-day forecast has Denver in the 90s until next Tuesday). Wildfires are raging and people are being shot and killed in and around our neighborhood.

As you know if you’ve been reading here, Ben, Soren, and I go to City Park Jazz all the time. Everybody knows that if you want to find us on a Sunday evening, we’re probably there. Fortunately, we didn’t go last night.

Things have changed since we started going several years ago. Three or four years ago, we used to see well-choreographed gang displays. One week, a group of guys wearing red would get up and walk around the park. The next week, it would be a group of guys wearing blue. The next week, it would be both groups. I remember sitting there thinking, crap, if these guys wanted to start something, what would we do?

It’s been more crowded these days with less (or at least less blatant) gang activity and less potential violence — or so I thought. But last night, an off-duty Denver police officer who was trying to break up a fight as the concert was ending was shot in the head and killed.

A commenter on denverpost.com described the incident:

Since most of the news outlets are having trouble recreating what happened I can tell you what it was like to the South of the lake. If you’ve never been to Jazz in the Park before, it is a fairly segregated environment with the black crowd up to the North and the “wine and cheese yuppies” on the south side of the lake. There is some mixture around the stage area and around the boat house where there are a lot of people milling around. I think this is probably where the incident occurred.

We heard about 3 shots, then a couple more. People started looking around wondering if there was a shooting. The music stopped. We sat back down on the grass then the announcement came “Everyone needs to go to the South side of the park for your safety.” After about a minute, a crowd of mostly young white girls were running panicking towards our location, which is when people got really freaked out.

I figured it was probably some gang banger s*** and that we likely weren’t in any real danger. On the other hand, those bullets could have ended up in the crowd just about anywhere. The amount of emergency vehicles and police presence after the incident was unbelievable. Now I understand why. I think if they want to continue this event they will need to step up the number of uniformed officers in the area.

I, like a lot of people, won’t be going back to this event this year. RIP to the slain officer.

This is tragic and crazy. If you’re not familiar with City Park, it’s one of the biggest parks in Denver. It’s not, if you ask me, considered dangerous as alleged by some of the commenters on news stories about last night’s shooting.

This shooting happened just a month after two men, Deon T. Rudd and Justin O’Donnell, were shot and killed at York St. and Bruce Randolph in the middle of the day. The good news is that two suspects have been arrested and charged in that case. Another young man, De’Quan Walker-Smith, was shot and killed at 29th and Franklin in March.

What the fuck is going on, Denver? Shit like this always makes me wonder what we’re doing living where we live, where people get shot. But what do you do? So you live in the city, where people get shot. Or you live in the suburbs and you have Columbine. Or you live in an idyllic little college town and get Jerry Sandusky. Or you’re in or near the mountains and your entire neighborhood burns to the ground. Shit happens everywhere. I suppose the best way to deal with it is to be careful without being paranoid and live your life as best you can.

Links:

Update: If you’re looking for information on Rollin Oliver, I haven’t been able to find much. I can’t find him on Facebook (although apparently he is on there) and this could be him on Twitter. Apparently he resides in northeast Denver. He’s alleged to be a gang member.

Update: New article:

Your Moral Compass

Something I want my son to learn: Do the right thing. You will know what this is. Do what’s right even when it’s awkward, hard, lonely, frightening, or dangerous.

You’ve probably heard all you need to hear and more about what’s going on at Penn State. I thought I’d heard all I needed to hear and more but sat glued to the tv yesterday, unable to look away except to turn to Google now and then to get more details. If you want to get more details, I recommend reading the Grand Jury Report (this is very detailed and exceptionally disturbing) (I always recommend reading the original documents related to something like this when possible). There’s also a really good post about the situation here.

As a former criminal defense attorney, I take the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing very seriously. I’m not going to play judge and jury. I’m not going to sit here and condemn anyone involved, as much as doing so might give me (as a mother of a young son and a sports fan) some level of emotional satisfaction.

What I will do is talk about what we can learn from Penn State.

There is nowhere in the world where these kinds of horrible things don’t happen. There is no person or type of person who is always good all the time.

If you walk in on an adult engaged in any sort of sexual activity with a child, the right thing to do is: (1) remove the child from the situation if it is physically possible to do so; and (2) immediately go to the police. If somebody reports to you that he or she witnessed an adult engaged in any sort of sexual activity with a child and you believe he or she is telling the truth, the right thing to do is: (1) immediately go to the police.

The reason I say “immediately” is that something so simple can become so complicated as soon as you let it sit for any period of time. And the right people to go to are the police — not your father and not your boss (although feel free to tell them, too). The police.

Do the right thing even if it requires speaking out against your co-worker, boss, coach, significant other, spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, idol, or favorite blogger. Nobody is above or exempt from the right thing. Do the right thing even if people call you a snitch, tattletale, bully, hater, or troll. Don’t ever be afraid to question anyone and call out bad behavior when you see it.

I’m worried about the state of the right thing today. Right now, the world is a place where too often, people are more concerned about covering their own asses or the figurative asses of their institutions or being 100% positive and supportive of their loved ones all the time no matter what than they’re concerned with doing the right thing. Don’t be part of that.

Don’t you know, in your heart and in your mind, what you’d do if you walked in on some dude raping a child? Isn’t preventing further tragedy for that child and for other children more important than whatever is going to happen to you as a result of doing the right thing? Quoting myself is gross, but I said this on Twitter yesterday: “I love my job but dudes, if I had to get fired for calling the police after seeing/knowing about child sex abuse, I’d do it. I mean, duh?”

If your moral compass is telling you “duh,” listen to it. Do the right thing. Always.

Just another day in the ‘hood….

This morning, Ben came in from taking out the garbage (this involves taking the garbage down to the end of the alley and putting it in a dumpster) and said, “You might want to turn on the scanner.” Apparently, he had just seen a Jeep driving really, really, really fast down Bruce Randolph toward Downing, with police in pursuit.

By the time I had the scanner up and running, I heard stuff like: 22nd and Downing, someone shot in the head and shoulder, suspect down, and hey let’s all switch to the secret police channel where people can’t listen to us. I was all ????

Apparently this is what was happening. Well, shit.

This kind of stuff is hard for me to process sometimes. I mean, here’s the thing. I’m a hippie. I’m never in favor of people being killed. I used to be a public defender. I know how the system is stacked against you if you’re accused of a crime.

The thing is, though, and I have to be honest now even if it’s not what I would consider appealing. I have a kid. I live in the hood. I worry about shit like home invasion. I worry about shit that happens to completely innocent people in this neighborhood. I’m never in favor of people being killed. But if I’m really honest, which I have to be because if I’m not really honest what am I, I’m not going to cry any tears for this guy who, assuming what I’ve read and heard is true, invaded a home in my neighborhood, tied up a man, sexually assaulted a woman and did something that resulted in her bleeding from her face and screaming naked on her porch, stole her car, drove at a high rate of speed through a residential neighborhood where innocent people live with their families (this I know for a fact because Ben saw it himself), and was shot in the head and killed.

I don’t like having feelings like this. It’s hard, sometimes, to balance the rage I felt as a public defender representing people who were pulled over and charged with crimes for completely bullshit reasons, more often than not because of their race, with the feelings I have living in the hood where terrible, awful crimes are committed all the time and more often than not, the perpetrators are never caught. I want to be careful to try to maintain the middle ground here, to never be swayed to one extreme or the other. It’s not always easy.

Sometimes I have terrible dreams. They usually involve a large-scale attack on me and real or imaginary people I’m with by people or entities who are evil in some way and want to either kill us or hurt us and make us evil. I don’t know if this is something that happens to people who worry about shit like this or whether it’s a reflection of my general anxiety level, which to tell you the truth has been pretty high lately and I’m not sure I can tell you why other than that’s just what happens to me sometimes. I try to keep it in check, you know? It’s not always easy, but I consider it my job as a human to try to do it to the best of my ability, whatever that means. If we’re not trying to make ourselves better, what are we doing?

I just checked in at Murder Park.

Last night, I listened to the police scanner for hours. I couldn’t sleep. Soren was doing this thing he does sometimes where he sleeps for a few hours and then something like this happens: Cry. Quiet. Cry. Quiet. Cry. Crycrycrycry scream! That’s when you go in to see what he needs. Most of the time, he’s kind of still asleep while this is happening — he’s crying with his eyes closed and you go in there and he doesn’t open his eyes and you don’t want to do much because you don’t want to totally wake him up. Eventually you give him some milk even though you don’t want to give him milk in bed but it’s the only thing that works. He wakes up enough to drink the milk and then is quiet for a while, until the whole cycle starts over again.

Variations of this cycle occurred from midnight to 3 a.m. last night. Ben can sleep through it until I make enough noise to wake him up because I feel like I’ll go crazy if I don’t get some sleep. I can’t sleep through it. I’ll be drifting off, finally, and then the first “Waaaaah!” has me wide awake, where I remain in some fight-or-flight-like state, until after the last “Waaaaah!” of the night has been uttered, whenever that might be.

So I was listening to the police scanner between waaaaahs. Because several people often speak at once on the scanner, it’s hard for me to figure out what’s happening sometimes. I heard something about a man and a woman who had been parked in a McDonald’s parking lot for four hours, and someone inside finally called it in because they were closing the restaurant. I think they sent multiple officers to the McDonald’s parking lot. This sounded like it had the potential to be really bad. Nobody sits in a McDonald’s parking lot for four hours. There was something else at 29th and Lafayette, but I didn’t catch what. I always perk up a little when our ‘hood is mentioned.

This morning, I checked the Denver Police twitter stream to find out what happened last night, because I had a really bad feeling about the McDonald’s parking lot. I didn’t see anything about that, but I did see something about 30th and Lafayette.

Swing!

at Curtis Park

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park is located at 30th and Lafayette, where one street curves into the other. I didn’t even know the name of the park until yesterday, when I added it to Foursquare. (I’m a total dork about adding random neighborhood parks to Foursquare.) It’s a tiny park. There are a couple picnic benches, a little play structure, and three swings — two regular and one baby. We took Soren there late yesterday afternoon to go on the swing. We figured we’d try a different park and knew Williams (I keep wanting to refer to it as Kevin McHale Park, or at least I did before I came up with a better nickname) has baby swings. Well, a baby swing. Just one.

I didn’t realize, or I forgot, that this park is a big-time hangout. One picnic table was filled with youngish guys, two of whom were shooting craps. Somebody was smoking terrible weed. One of the young guys was wearing a White Sox hat. I never know what this means any more. Older guys were sitting at the other table. One of them walked around the park picking up trash. He said “hi” to us. Whoever had been smoking weed stopped while we were there with the baby. The whole time we were there, a guy stood on 29th, away from everybody else. I’m not sure what he was doing. Cars and SUVs with booming bass drove by or parked and the people got out and came to the park.

It was — and I’m not sure how to write about this without sounding like an asshole, which I’d really like to avoid here — definitely a situation where we were out of place. I wasn’t worried about the people at the park. They weren’t interested in messing with us. What I was worried about were the people out there, assuming they exist, who have a problem with the people at the park. Like that guy who just drove by in the SUV. That guy made me nervous. But I don’t know. I watch a lot of The First 48 and have an overactive imagination.

I don’t know whether the better course of action would’ve been to not stop at the park in the first place. I don’t know. When you bring your kid to the park and there are people who are different from you in whatever way there, aren’t you kind of an asshole if you just leave? I mean, the act of putting our kid on a swing isn’t a big statement or anything, but isn’t that sometimes the right thing to do, even if you feel weird about it?

We didn’t stay at the park for very long — just long enough for Soren to swing for a while and grab a few pine cones that he’d obsessively carry around for the next hour and for me to add the park to Foursquare. I told Ben I’d like to become mayor of the park, which shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. One more check in and I’d have it.

We walked past what had become a decent crowd by one of the picnic tables and headed up Lafayette. I told Ben I thought it would be kind of cool if we had a neighborhood hangout like that park, where you could just show up whenever and someone would be there. Our people, if you want to be that way (and I really don’t, but I have to be honest) don’t do stuff like that. We hang out in our yards and, at least if you’re us, are pretty isolated from our neighbors. Williams Park said something interesting to me during our short time there. I’m not sure exactly how to interpret it.

Anyway, back to the Denver Police Twitter stream. When I checked it this morning, I saw:

BREAKING: DPD Offcrs and Dets are investigating a homicide at Williams Park (2952 N Lafayette St)

Here’s the related article from The Denver Post:

Man shot to death in Denver’s Dr. Daniel Hale Park

A man was shot to death in a Denver park tonight and his assailant fled in a black sport-utility vehicle.

The victim has not been identified. He died after being shot multiple times about 8 p.m. in Dr. Daniel Hale Park at 3000 North Lafayette St., said police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

“There may have been multiple witnesses in the park who ran away,” Jackson said. “We’re hoping they will come back and talk to us.”

Jackson said it appeared the shooter got out of the SUV at the street, walked into the park and had a conversation with the victim, before he pulled out a pistol and began shooting.

Anyone with information can call Denver police at 720-913-2000 or call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. Tips also can be sent by text to CRIMES (274637) then title DMCS, or by e-mail to metro-denvercrimestoppers.com.

So, approximately three hours after we were hanging out at this park with our kid, somebody was murdered there. I don’t know who it was or whether it was someone we saw yesterday. I don’t know why it happened or who did it. I don’t know what would’ve happened if we’d been at the park at the time. I don’t know why this shit happens. I just — I just don’t know.

I’ve heard about people running races, like today’s Bolder Boulder, in memory of loved ones. We didn’t run a race this morning — Ben, Soren, Peaches, and I just went for a run through the ‘hood, down to and around City Park. It doesn’t count for anything, but I ran in memory of the guy who was killed in my neighborhood last night, whoever he was. I’m sorry that happened. I hope there’s something we can do to make it better.

Update: On June 3, 2011, the victim was identified as Richard Eugene McDaniel. He was 40 years old.

Crime in the ‘Hood

Yesterday afternoon as we walked home from Curtis Park, we passed a guy on 33rd wearing a red baseball hat cocked to the right. At the same time, a car drove by (and you could kind of say it drove by deliberately, whatever that might mean) and I noticed that the driver was wearing a red baseball hat. (I didn’t see what team was on the hat in either case.) “Hey,” I said to Ben, “what’s up with all these guys wearing red hats?” I hadn’t noticed a proliferation of red-hatted, young-ish, male individuals in our neighborhood before, and I always notice things like that, as a sports fan and as someone who knows something about gangs.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with the rest of the story.
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My usual procedure after hearing gunshots while at home (Isn’t it awesome that I have a usual procedure for that?) involves second-guessing myself (especially during the summer, when life is but a game of “gunshots or fireworks” and you’re never sure what you jut heard) and then turning on the police scanner to make sure somebody called the police. Last night around 8:30, the gunshots were close enough and numerous enough for me to jump off the couch, look out the front window to see several people running like hell from the basketball court, and call the fuck out of 911. It’s amazing how wound up I get in this situation and how I’m capable of breathlessly confusing streets that go north/south and streets that go east/west. I overestimated the number of gunshots (Ben, a more reliable narrator, said it was maybe 8 at most). While I was on the phone, we saw the first of the flashing lights coming from the east side.

crime scene

not newsworthy

Soon after this incident, an ambulance sped away from the scene. There were many police cars and the area was taped off for approximately 2.5 hours.

When things like this happen in the hood (Look, can I get over feeling bad about saying we live in “the hood” now? I always feel kind of bad about saying it and then I act like I’m nudge-nudge-wink-winking when I say we live in “the hood,” like yeah we’re from Chicago where you better recognize and it’s The Hood, but fucked if I’m not raising my toddler in a neighborhood where gunshots are spraying over streets I can see from my house and if I want to call this the hood I’m just going to do it and be okay with it) I go through the whole range of emotions. Ben and I had a fun night after we calmed down and Soren went to bed and we talked about how this shit fucking sucks. I’m mad. I’m mad at the assholes shooting guns anywhere but especially here and the fact that the world sucks so much this is what happens to people sometimes and that we don’t have wads of cash we can use to move somewhere this doesn’t happen all the time but won’t kill our edgy urban “we’re way too cool for the suburbs no really” spirit and that so many crimes in Denver go unsolved and apparently it’s unsafe for us to be out in our neighborhood at 8:30 in the evening and that it’s the fucking wild west out here where people act like it’s offensive to pay money for things like schools and the police and I’m powerless to do anything but shake my tiny fist at the raging injustice of the whole situation (Am I?) and I could go on and on but I’m pretty sure you get the point.

Aside from all that, do you want to know what really put my rage in high gear last night? The fact that I can’t find out what the hell happened.

I knew a shooting in the hood wasn’t likely to make the news, but I shuffled around the 10:00 news offerings last night anyway. I saw stories about a guy getting arrested on an airplane, a toddler drowning in Boulder (tragic), something about child abuse, Denver Broncos cheerleaders, and Texas wildfires. Of course there was nothing about a shooting in the hood. I knew this would be the case — I didn’t see any news teams near where the shooting occurred — but my stupid false hopes made me watch.

news in the 'hood

newsworthy

Today I looked around on the internet and found nothing. I @ed the Denver Police on Twitter (to their credit, they asked me the time and location of the incident I was asking about, and I assume and hope they’ll get back to me eventually).* There was nothing on the news and there is nothing on the internet about the shooting that occurred on April 9, 2011 around 8:30 p.m. in the area of Bruce Randolph and Franklin and/or Gilpin in the Cole neighborhood of Denver.

I know at least Fox 31 knows this neighborhood exists, because they were out here once when a tree landed on a fence during a storm. (To their credit and if I recall correctly, I’m pretty sure Fox 31 was the only outlet to even mention the last shooting that occurred in our neighborhood.)

What the fuck? It’s not just shootings in the hood. I think shootings anywhere in a city should be newsworthy. I’d like to know when shit like this happens in my neighborhood. I mean really, think of how many times this happens and we’re not home or awake and we never know about it. Apparently there was more gunfire around 5 this morning (according to a neighbor, it sounded like a war zone out there) but we slept through it. No one person can be all eyes and ears all the time. We need to have someone to rely on, to keep us informed.

As much as I love having something to rage and bitch about, I’d like to use my anger to do something useful. I’d like to help make this situation better, at least in terms of allowing people to be informed of what’s going on in their neighborhoods. My first idea was to contact local news media and ask why they don’t cover stories like this. But then I realized that they probably don’t give a shit about these stories (if they did, they’d be covering local crimes instead of wildfires in Texas) and maybe this is another indication that traditional news media are fading into oblivion before they die. And that’s fine.

This is the age of DIY. I think it’s up to us — the people — to figure out a way to take control of the information about what’s happening around us in our neighborhoods. There has to be a way for this to happen, whether it’s something sophisticated like a super-local, micro-news show or whether it’s something as simple as a website where people can post about news as it happens. Maybe this already exists and I haven’t found it — I’ll be looking over the next few days. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to figure it out.

Feel free to email me at fanmail at hitbyapitch.com if you want to get involved and/or have ideas. Or if you know what the hell happened in my neighborhood last night.

This is a good rage song:


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Note
*The Denver Police did get back to me: “a man was shot two times while driving in the 1600 block of E. Bruce Randolph. Victim is stable.” My thoughts are with the victim and his family. Now I’m wondering whether the shooter is someone from the 1600 block of E. Bruce Randolph.

Knock knock! It’s Mr. Burglar.

According to an article I read online somewhere, the modus operandi of some local burglars involves pounding on doors and then breaking a window to get in the house if nobody answers. If somebody does answer, they’ll pretend to be looking for work or donations for some bogus charity. (Note: when I was in college, I had a quasi-boyfriend who worked for one of those left-wing charitable organizations where they actually go door-to-door looking for donations, but then he quit and still went door-to-door looking for donations — classy!)

I’m going to assume that this is what happened before some dude broke a window; climbed over the kitchen sink; went through almost every one of my drawers; threw most of my clothes and lots of random crap all over the floor; terrified the hell out of four of five cats (the elderly deaf one was unfazed); filled his pockets (I assume) with earrings and rings (he cleaned me out of gold earrings, including a pair that was my grandmother’s, and took several rings, but somehow left the really good stuff); disconnected and lovingly wrapped our flatscreen LCD TV in a blanket and set it by the back gate; and filled a Vera Bradley (in Nantucket Red, which is the hot pattern for all the felons these days) with my laptop, assorted cords (including the charging base for a Palm Pilot I used almost 10 years ago), a couple cameras, an old cell phone, an empty iPod Shuffle case, the TV manual (but not the remote), a combination lock with no combination (I don’t even know what it is), and a neatly folded Jon Garland Chicago White Sox t-shirt.

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