Compulsion to Create
Gregory S. Shaffer
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This article reflects the true life experience of a weekend in Portland, Oregon.

Strange 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 like.

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 me


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