I've been in touch with the police department through Captain Bibb. He phoned me first on Monday, but didn't have as much information then, as he hadn't spoken with the officers in question, had not gotten their report. On the first call, he did tell me that it was a report of a suspicious person in the area, and he said the officer was a seasoned veteran.
On the second call, he had more information. He said the officers were responding to a call made by the elderly woman who lives in a house behind my street. Somebody had been knocking on the door, and she was frightened. When the officers arrived, they heard loud shots coming from the vicinity of my house. That's because we live underneath a stand of oak trees, and when the acorns come down, they're as loud as gun shots. I'll post an mp3 of this later on tonight. They came to my back door, and seeing the open screen door, they suspected there was a crime in progress.
Captain Bibb told me he didn't think the actions were unreasonable given the clues the officer put together. But he did say he thought the matter could be handled in a more safe manner. For instance, he suggested that the officer should have posted one of the officers to cover the back door while someone went to the front door to let us know what was going on. Captain Bibb also said that the officer would be counseled so as to avoid this kind of a situation in the future.
How do I feel about all of this? Here's what I wrote to Dave McNair of the Hook:
Well, I feel satisfied that the incident may help provide for better public
safety. I can put myself in the shoes of the officer, who put several clues
together and made an assessment that something bad was happening in my
house. Our house sits underneath a stand of tall oak trees. When the acorns
fall, they hit the roof with a very loud thud. That coupled with an open
screen door and a report of a suspicious person in the area led him to do
what he did, which was to investigate what he thought was a crime in
Now, was it handled properly? My opinion is that it was a bit excessive. I'm
still pretty sure I saw a gun pointed at me when I opened the door, and
Captain Bibb told me that they had handguns, but rifles. I'm pretty sure it
was aimed at me.
But, I feel confident that the officer will learn from the incident, and can
use this as a way to improve the way he does his job. A more appropriate
response would have been to post an officer at the back door while another
came to the front door, and I'd like to think that this incident will help
the police do their job better.
As I said, there's a lot more thoughts that I have about this, but I'm not
at a point right now where I can write out a lot more. I bet you if it
wasn't the month before the election, I'd be a lot more shaken up!
Am I being too generous, as Dave wrote on the Hook's blog this week? Possibly. I don't know. This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for me, with me co-moderating two candidates forums for Charlottesville Tomorrow. I'm kind of filled with the adrenaline of that.
But, I do hope this continues a conversation about public safety, and what it means to be safe. What can we do to make our homes safer, without going overboard. Many people have asked if I want an apology, and, I don't know what that would really mean. I don't know what that would do.
In any case, I'm still thinking about the incident, and I still feel safe in my community. I blame the acorns.