Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Bullets flyin' round me from a three-fifty-somethin"

Okay, for those who find graphic depictions of grisly events offensive, scroll to the next post.

Someone asked me the other day what was the most gruesome thing I've had to deal with. Well, this was it. Mind you, I was still in training when I took this one.

I was dispatched to a shooting call on the main drag through town. The caller said someone had been shot in a vehicle. I arrived and found a man sitting on the curb next to a vehicle. He was crying hysterically. I was behind the vehicle and could not see inside yet. The man was inconsolable and would not talk to me. I checked him over and determined he was not injured. As I checked him, I noticed he had little bits of what looked like pink Jell-O on his shirt sleeve. He eventually managed to tell me his cousin had shot himself. Then I looked into the van.

Inside the van, I found exactly what I expected. The passenger was slumped over in his seat, hanging from his seatbelt. He was obviously beyond any help I could give him. Bits of brain matter were clumped on the inside of the windshield and the headliner. Pieces of skull were wedged between the dash and the bottom of the windshield. Blood everywhere. The top of this guy's skull was flipped open like the top of a tin can, and was hanging by a thread of skin.

My first thought was "so that's what the inside of a skull looks like". Most people would find the sight repulsive or even nauseating. I found it absolutely intriguing. It was like an anatomy lesson. I found the gun on the floor between his feet. One expended casing, five empty chambers. It is truly amazing what a contact shot from a .357 Magnum can do to a human head.

I'm sure some non police officers will find me to be uncaring or otherwise mentally incompetent, but these are the things we police officers have to see. I did not treat this man as anything other than another human being. I showed him the same respect I would show any other person, living or dead. We can't turn and run, we have to dig in and investigate. We have to have some defense against this stuff or it will eat us up from the inside out. That's why we look at things slightly differently than the average Joe Schmoe.

I owe it to that person to do my job and figure out how he died. I need to prove that he did it to himself, and that someone else didn't kill him and make it look like a suicide. I owe it to him, and to his family. When there is no doubt in my mind that he did it to himself, then I can rest, and so can he.

This incident does not bother me. It does not haunt me. I don't have nightmares about it or anything of that sort. I can tell you one thing though, I will never forget it.


Liz said...

That does sound gruesome. Be thankful you don't have the New River Gorge Bridge in your jurisdiction (it's the bridge on West Virginia's quarter). 876 feet high. If you can imagine the whole person being as blown up as your guy's head was... and then add the smell of nasty, stale, french fries...

Officer "Smith" said...

The highest sheer drop in my town is about 35 feet (height ordinances ya' know), so I don't suppose I'll ever have to deal with that mess. We do have a couple of areas where a person could bounce a couple hundred feet down a rock face if they wanted to though.