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By Tom Waltz
Copyright © 2001

Not too long after the shooting, I heard the cops in the alley outside my apartment window. It musta been 'bout an hour or so after it all happened, I guess. I heard the shot and the police cars earlier, but didn't really pay it much mind; guns is always goin off round here--same with sirens. But when those two cops come round the dumpster outside my kitchen window, I thought I'd sneak a listen, 'specially when what I normally hear out there is drug deals, or bums, or fucking. I knew it was cops by the jingling of all that shit they wear on their belts. When I could hear they had stopped, I creeped up to the half-open window and stayed real still.

"What the hell happened, Brooks?" was the first thing I heard. The voice sounded kinda scratchy and deep. I could tell it was an older dude. There was quiet for a few seconds, so I slowly pulled the curtain to the side to see if I could get a look. Sure enough, two of 'em was out there, and I was right: one of 'em was an older guy, with gray hair and kinda chunky. Other one was young, blond hair... skinny. They was both white, but the young dude was REALLY white. I mean like a ghost or somethin. He looked real scared too. And he was shakin.

"C'mon, Brooks, before the goddamn reporters find us. What happened?!" It was the old guy again, and he was yellin at the young one, but doin it real quiet, like he didn't want anyone to hear. He put his hands on his hips.

"I... I don't know, Sarge," the younger cop--Brooks--finally said. "I got the domestic disturbance call and rolled up in time to stop it. He had her against the wall and kept yelling he was gonna kill her. Christ, he had the gun practically buried in her forehead."

He got quiet again and looked down at his hands, which was fidgetin like crazy. The older cop grabbed them and made Brooks look at him.

"Dammit, Brooks, you gotta calm down. Jesus, there're reporters all over out there, and they're going to be hounding me and you soon as we walk out of this alley." He looked out the front of the alley to the street for a second, then back to Brooks. "I don't know who the hell called them down here, but they are definitely here, so I need to know what happened, son. All of it. So, get a hold of yourself and tell me!" He let go of Brooks's hands.

"O... okay," Brooks said, takin this real deep breath. "Okay. I roll up and he's got her up against the wall. I tell him to drop the gun, to back off. But he doesn't. Just keeps screaming how she's a lying bitch and how he's sick of it all and she's going to get what she deserves. The whole time I got my piece on him, and I know I've got a clean shot. I keep yelling at him to stop, but I know he's not going to. I know I gotta do something at that point. I can't just let him kill her, you know? I was going to shoot him, Sarge... I mean, I had to. Then I see the other guy." He stopped again.

I could tell the Sarge was gettin frustrated. "What other guy," he asked.

"The one with the camcorder," Brooks said, lookin down at his feet. "He was right there, right by us. The whole time. There was already a bunch of people watching us, me pointing my gun at this guy and his wife, and one of 'ems got a camera. I... I just froze, Sarge. I see the fucking camera and freeze. I'm thinking Rodney King and police brutality and excessive force, and I'm fucking paralyzed." He looked up at the Sarge with huge, watery eyes. "I got a wife and kid, you know? This guy's about to blow this poor lady away and suddenly all I can think is how shooting him on video is going to get me in a shitload of trouble--trouble I don't want for my family, and... and..." His voice kinda trailed off.

"And what, Brooks?" the Sarge wasn't even tryin to be quiet now. "And what?"

"And then he shot her." Brooks started cryin and talkin at the same time. "Shot her right in the head, right there in front of me." He grabbed the Sarge's arms with both hands. "I... I coulda stopped it, coulda saved her, don't you see, but the camera. The... the..." He let go of the Sarge and fell to the ground, his face buried in his hands, sittin there whisperin over and over again:

"Oh God oh God oh God oh God..."

I couldn't listen no more. I shut the window.


That night, Brooks got on the TV anyways. I flipped on the news and sure enough, there he was, a picture of him to the side of the news lady's head. She was sayin somethin 'bout the shooting, 'bout how the dude had shot his wife and then given into police without a fight. But mostly what she was sayin was how neighborhood leaders was all upset 'bout how Brooks had let it happen, that if this had been a white neighborhood police wouldn't of allowed an innocent woman to get killed right in front of 'em. Funny thing is, the whole time this is on, I'm wonderin to myself who these neighborhood leaders are that they're talkin 'bout. I never knew our neighborhood had any leaders... least the one's I was seein on TV. Only leaders I ever heard of or seen was in charge of the local gangs, and I doubt they'd care for shit 'bout some dead lady.

I was still thinkin 'bout this when I heard the news lady say they had "acquired exclusive amateur video of the incident." Then she warned that what they was 'bout to show was pretty fucked up, so don't let the kids see.

It musta been from the camera dude Brooks was talkin 'bout. The whole thing was kinda shaky, but you could see Brooks pointin the gun at the guy and his wife and yellin and screamin goin on back and forth. I could see in his face how scared Brooks was. His eyes was twitchin like crazy between the guy with the gun and the camera dude. There was more hollerin, then the guy blows her brains out like nothin. After that, the camera was bouncin all over the place. I guess the camera dude freaked out at the shot and ran.

The news lady came back on and said that neighborhood leaders--again with the leaders--felt the video was proof that police allow crimes to happen in our neighborhood more than the white ones... or somethin like that. Then she said Brooks was under investigation and couldn't work until it was done. He'd still get paid, though.

I turned the TV off.

I went into the kitchen to get some chips, and kept thinkin 'bout what they was sayin on the TV. No matter what they thought, I knew they was wrong. Yeah, things is fuckin bad round here, and maybe the cops ain't so on top of things most the damn time, but I don't think it was that way with Brooks. No, this time they had it wrong--the news people and them leaders, whoever the hell they were. I walked over and opened the window up again and remembered Brooks cryin outside it earlier.

Damn! I wish I woulda had a video camera when those two were talkin in the alley.

I coulda sold the news people the truth.

1999 Tom Waltz

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