Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Guy and His Gun

In January of 1986, I worked three jobs. Why? I was 19 and I was on a quest to make money and to keep myself as busy as possible. I always liked to be on the go and with three jobs - I certainly was!

One of the disadvantages of living on Third Street was that all parking occurred on the street. My used 1979 Red Honda Accord could amazingly fit into small spots and believe me, I took advantage of that as much as possible. If I happened to come home late, I usually had to park at least a block away. My grandparents (who I lived with), were never thrilled if my car was not within view. I think they just liked to keep an eye on me and my stuff :).

615 3rd St, Fort Wayne, IN 46808 - Google Maps_1253145512412

On one particular Winter night, the parking situation really sucked. Instead of getting to park on Third Street, I had to go down to Orchard and then, park at the very end of it - almost at the corner of Orchard and High Street.

615 3rd St, Fort Wayne, IN 46808 - Google Maps_1253145470998

The black splat is where I ended up parking.

As I was walking up the sidewalk, nearing the corner of Orchard and Third Street, the light of a street lamp bounced off of one car and made it stand out more than the others parked on the street.

I looked to the right and I saw a guy - about my age - sitting in the driver's seat, with a gun in his hand. He looked distressed. We made eye contact. I diverted my eyes - but in a way that showed no fear. Why? I couldn't tell you. I probably should have been afraid. But everything inside of me kept me composed and calm and I continued walking at an even pace towards our house.

I walked inside - it was after 10 p.m., but my grandpa was still awake. He had just retired a few weeks beforehand and he claimed that he couldn't get used to not being awake for second shift. Secretly, I think he worried about me being out "in the dark" and so staying up, watching television kept him entertained until I got home.

So anyway, I walked in and I told my grandpa that we needed to call 911. I explained to him what I had just seen and amazingly, I was still very calm about it. For many years, Grandpa worked as a Security Supervisor at St. Joe Hospital so before we picked up the phone to place the call, he asked me specific questions.

Where exactly was the car parked?
Was it running? Or off?
What did it look like?
What did he look like?
Did he see you?
Did he make any attempt to get out of his car?
What did his gun look like?
What position was the gun in?

Most of my answers weren't specific enough (like I knew it was a mid-size American car but I didn't know what model/make/year), and forget the gun stuff. I just knew that it was a small pistol - it didn't have a wooden handle (you know - like handguns did in the Westerns on television).

My grandpa was very patient and in the span of 2-3 minutes, he got a lot of information out of me. He placed the 911 phone call himself (giving the details I had provided) and within 15 minutes, a uniformed FWP guy was at our door.

My grandpa and him got on well. The policeman took my statement and he asked the same type of questions that my grandpa had (and then some).

At the end of this process, he told us that the guy was upset over a domestic situation and that he had planned on killing himself. I was kind of shocked - I guess I never really stopped to think what was wrong with him or why he had a gun (or what he was going to do with it).

The policeman explained that he and his partner had approached the car (and its driver) to ascertain the situation and that is what took him so long to get over to see us. The individual had a gun permit but they did not feel comfortable with letting him go. It didn't sound like he was arrested - more that someone (or someones) were spending some time, talking to him. He was definitely out of the immediate area and the police gave him strict instructions not to come back near this area.

I guess I should have been comforted by that last part but really, I don't ever remember being scared or frightened. Something in his eyes - that split second we made eye contact - told me that this wasn't a guy who was going to hurt me.

But you know, I got a lecture from both the policeman and my grandfather about walking alone, so late at night, blah blah blah.

As he was leaving, the policeman shook my grandfather's hand and then looked at me and said, "You probably saved his life tonight". I didn't know what to say to that. So I said nothing. He didn't appear as if he was looking for a response.

After he left, and my grandpa locked up for the night, we sat in the living room and watched some late night television (Channel 55!). Neither of us said much and about an hour later, we went to bed.

The next morning, my grandma was all frantic. She pulled out every possibility (I could have been raped, murdered, kidnapped) and I just shook my head at her. Usually, when she got this way, me and grandpa just let her rant. Eventually, she went a little over the top and my grandpa stepped in to cut her off.

"Irene. Our granddaughter did the right thing. I don't like that she was out walking in the dark but in the end, it all turned out alright for everyone, including the young man who might have been found this morning by someone else walking past his car."

That quieted her - real quick :).

Every once in awhile, whenever I had to park on Orchard, I always wondered what happened to the guy. All of these years later, I still can't look at that corner without thinking about that night. Although we only shared a couple of seconds of co-existence, I hoped that he had been able to move past the type of pain that led him to that night in his car with his gun.