A difficult night last night.
I was on scene at the officer-involved shooting in the early evening, I was riding with the officer who was perhaps fourth or fifth to the scene. It was, on a professional level, fascinating to hang back and watch as the Austin Police Department took control and went to work. I was hugely impressed with their organization and professionalism, I really was. Those in charge gave quick, clear orders and the officers went straight to work, putting up tape, setting up the perimeter, doing what they needed to do.
And they have a lot to deal with in situations like that, they sure did last night. As the news reports will tell you, there were a lot of very angry people in the neighborhood so while working to investigate and collect evidence related to the shooting itself, officers had to worry about their personal safety and other side matters like the huge in-rush of media.
On a personal level, it was unsettling because we were to the scene so fast. I got to see some things that I normally only see in photos or written in reports.
And then I wake up this morning to hear that an Austin officer was shot dead as he was responding to a call, a drunk and disorderly in a Wal-Mart for heavens sake. The officer had no chance, apparently. I couldn't help but think that it's the kind of call that, on a ride-along, I probably wouldn't hang back much. In fact, we had one similar, I blogged about it, which turned out to be an amusing interlude. But it makes me realize, once again, how dangerous it can be to wear a police uniform, how a quiet night can go to hell in seconds. I know the officer involved in the first incident last night will be deeply affected by what happened, and I know that there are two daughters who just lost their father. We can take some heart from the individuals who tackled the suspect, their decency and bravery, but a tragic night for the Austin Police Department.
But I did want to end on a positive note. There's reference in the news stories to the angry crowd and one woman who fainted. From what I could see and after talking to people it seems like tension was very high (I saw the rocks they threw, the police car's broken window) when the woman passed out. At that time, the officers were lined up in riot gear. But as soon as she went down, the firemen on scene walked through the line and administered help to her. I talked to them afterwards and they were clearly worried about their safety but they went out there anyway. Isn't that the definition of bravery, to be afraid but act anyway? And if the news reports are right, certainly I didn't see anything to contradict this, that act of kindness and caring diffused much of the tension in the crowd.
And after a night like that, it does no harm to hang onto moments of goodness, decency, and bravery.