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This article reflects the true life experience of
a weekend in Portland, Oregon.
Tale from a Portland Suburb
Looking back I think the scariest
part is that none of us were all that surprised.
Recently my wife and I took a weekend
trip to visit friends in Portland, Oregon. This would be the first
time we had seen their new home purchased just four weeks before
our arrival. Located in a nice upper-middle class neighborhood on
the side of one of Portland's many hills, the home features a sprawling
2,800 square foot layout and a fine view of the city. In this neighborhood,
people walk the terraced streets, say hello to each other along
the way and many long for a move up the hill to an even better view
where prices are triple.
But, the most memorable part of our
three day stay had nothing to do with home values, it had to do
with a murder/suicide at the neighborhoods house right next door.
It all started Saturday morning when
Bob returned from a bagel-run to find cops everywhere. Someone has
reported hearing shots, we hadn't heard a thing. We sat down to
bagels and every fifteen minutes would peek out the slit of a basement
window to see a policeman crouched behind a fence, gun drawn, statue
During breakfast our conversation
centered on giving our hosts a bad time, "Hey, nice neighborhood
you just moved into." They took our comments in stride considering
their new home is almost twice as big as ours, and on a hill, and
with a view. Somewhere along the line I commented that it was probably
just your average man kills wife them himself situation.
Bob left for work, minutes later a
young cop came to the door with word that since there is no response
from the home next door a hostage negotiating team is being called.
Standard operating procedure he tells us. I'm amazed at how calm
he seems, just your average day on the job. "Oh, we can't make you
leave, but it's not a bad idea." My wife and I leave, our hostess,
Donna, stays and promises to stay in the back part of the house
away from any stray bullets.
Later, Donna recounts what happened
after we left. Just before noon three men with muddy boots, dressed
in camouflage, faces painted with streaks of black and gray arrive
at the front door. They are armed with large fully automatic weapons,
tripods, and very serious looks on their faces -- they are cops
and they are far different than the young cop of a few hours ago.
It may be the average day on the job for them too, but they are
taking no chances. They ask to use the back deck (that overlooks
the next door neighbor's home) to set up weapons. Saying no to them
is not an option.
They are radio equipped, they are
obviously wearing bullet proof vest under their camouflage clothes,
the situation has lost any sense of exciting escapade, it is now
only serious. These men are focused and speak with clear, assured,
we've-done-this-before-don't-worry-ma'am tones. They tell Donna
she must leave. Donna has no car, we have it and are out seeing
the sights of friendly Portland.
Donna calls Bob, "Come get me, now!"
Since Bob won't be able to get pass the now erected road block,
Donna runs up the drive way and down the street in the opposite
direction of the house next door, now completely surrounded by police.
She hopes this isn't the moment when the shooting starts. It isn't.
A few hours later after a direct phone
link, bullhorns and patience have produced no communication with
those inside the house in question the police prepare to enter and
see just what the situation is. We do not know what method they
use for entry -- a knock at the door, battering ram, storm the place
with a dozen officers -- all public has been removed from the scene.
The police enter, a man and woman are found dead.
By mid-afternoon Donna is allowed
to return to her home, cops and rumors are everywhere. Minutes later
the first media pounds on the door, video rolling "What were
they like?" Donna doesn't know, she's never met them, this
comment doesn't make the news. "Were you scared?"
"Well, yea. I mean, there were police
everywhere. They used our back deck to set up guns on tripods."
Despite the fact that Donna has no real insight into the situation
later that night see makes the lead story of the 10 o’clock news.
The reporter tells us they think it was a murder/ suicide, they
were married and that the deaths occurred about eight in the morning.
All of the excitement, the fully automatic
guns, muddy boots, pained faces, road blocks and evacuations had
been for naught. Both were dead long before the first police officers
ever arrived. But, then again, you never know.
So, it ends up our hosts had never
even seen, let alone meet, the neighbors. And so we continued to
joke. "You might want to call your real estate agent. Did you take
pictures of the camouflaged men on you back deck?"
Watching the news I think back to
my breakfast comments, it was probably just your average man kills
wife them himself situation. I was exactly right.
So, now the bit of excitement no longer
seems exciting. Now I wonder why it is that I could so accurately
predict what happened. I find myself wondering if they had kids,
wondering what could have been so bad. I wonder what he thought
as he killed his wife. How many shots were fired? Where did he shot
himself, what room, how many times.
I wonder if there were not a gun in
the house if looking back to Saturday if it wouldn’t simply be remembered
as the day the next door neighbors had a terrible fight. What's
it like being a cop and seeing this?
Everyone seems unfazed. This is small
blip on the radar screen of violence in America. No one will protest.
No large group will march on City Hall. No petitions will circulate
to reduce the sale of guns, or to make crisis counseling easily
and freely accessible to all.
The house will most likely be sold,
new neighbors will move in.
I’m still amazed that even though
none of us new these people none of us was surprised, that scares