Monday, January 14, 2008

Sometimes news happens in your backyard... literally...

My day off turned into a six-hour waiting game at my apartment complex... read my written account for the paper below interspersed with my photos:

I'm a resident of the Washington Plaza Apartments on Elsie Street, less than a block (about 50 yards) from where Sunday's standoff and subsequent shooting took place.

I noticed police begin the create a perimeter around the immediate neighborhood between 3:00 and 3:30pm. Appleton Police entered our building saying there was a "situation" in the neighborhood, and asked that we go to the basement or first floor, or stay away from our windows. By this time I was in communique with my boss Dwight Nale and colleague Patrick Ferron who were listening to the chatter on the police radio scanner. They told me that there was a stand-off situation in a house in the 800 block of West Lorain Street.

I admit that I disregarded the police's directives at my own risk. I felt a journalistic obligation to work the story since I had a unique perspective and vantage point of the scene – I was well inside the police perimeter. So i continued to monitor the situation from my window and taking pictures of the activity on the scene.

Police walked cautiously around the building and the rest of the neighborhood with shotguns, handguns and what appeared to be assault rifles. As time passed, more and more officers showed up wearing camouflage, appearing to be part of a tactical or SWAT unit.

As the situation seemed to escalate, I went to a neighbor's apartment who has windows facing the duplex where the standoff situation was occurring. From those windows I had an unobstructed view looking south towards the rear exterior wall of the duplex, and the east side exterior wall of the duplex. I could not see the front porch where everything was occurring, but I was well within earshot of everything that was occurring. I also was listening to chatter on the police radio scanner.

From the window I could see a squad car, about 50 feet east of the residence on Lorain, with the tactical team gathered behind it.

From what I saw and heard on the police radio, they approached the residence's front porch – a handful of them – one in front behind a shield with a drawn handgun, and one in the middle with a phone. The phone appeared to just be a box with a long gray cable. Radio communication made it sound like they placed this rig on or near the front porch of the residence.

Somebody with the police was then on a bullhorn or loudspeaker asking the suspect to come out and get the phone. It also sounded from what I heard on the police radio, like the suspect was from time to time pointing a firearm out of the house towards the police, but I never actually saw this. They wanted to get the phone to the suspect because, from what I heard on the police radio, they went a long time without being able to make contact with the suspect. They also said over the radio that he may have been hard of hearing.

They kept repeating over the loudspeaker for the suspect to come out and get the phone. From what I heard over the police radio, he did exit the residence out onto the porch to get the phone. I gathered that for some reason he may have had trouble finding the phone because the police kept specifying over and over again on the loudspeaker where it was, on and in relation to, the porch.

They told him things like, "Nobody wants to hurt you. Pick up the phone so we can talk to you."

They addressed him with the name "Steve."

Eventually he must have gotten the phone. I distinctly remember him yelling back at the police: "Your f***ing phone doesn't work."

A minute or two passed. I could feel the tension building as the suspect seemed to become more argumentative, the scene got louder. At one point he yelled at them, "Just shoot me."

I can't say for sure what the suspect's actions were at that point. I didn't have a visual. It was just moments later that I heard three shots ring out. The first shot sounded different from the subsequent two. I don't know if that means that the suspect shot first and then the police shot at him, or if the first shot was just a different type of firearm, or if he shot himself, or what. The tactical team was still behind the squad car when this happened, but there were other tactical personnel all around the area so the shots really could have come from anywhere.

Over the loudspeaker they said, "Steve, an ambulance is here and we're coming to help you."

Shortly after that, the tactical team advanced towards the suspect who, from what i heard on the radio, was hit and was down. Once they reached the fallen suspect, the police announced over the radio he was unconscious but breathing. Gold Cross was then called in to transport him. The scene remained secure for about a half hour after that. Police then cordoned off the area with yellow tape.
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