Thursday, October 10, 2013

Maniac Monday

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Ahh Mondays. I always hate Mondays. I know, how unique. But this Monday was unlike any other - it was just plain crazy. I don't even know where to begin..... As I settled in at work a little after 9am, my husband started texting me that something odd was going on at home. Not at our house, but nearby. He heard lots and lots of sirens. He turned on his police scanner and right away heard chaos and chatter... there was a fire, and it sounded big. I turned on my scanner app too and it didn't take long to notice that the firefighters sounded different - we've listened to the scanner multiple times before and I had never heard them sound as serious and rushed as they did this time. Something was definitely very wrong.

We could hear lots of yelling, barrages of half-garbled commands back and forth over the radio. Calling for more engines to respond, more tools, asking for addresses of nearby fire hydrants... At this point we thought they were at one of the nearby shopping plazas. But then after a while, we made out phrases like "back of the house" and "we're talking to S.W.A.T"...Then we heard someone yelling repeatedly "Stay back! Stay back!" followed by more garbled responses back and forth.

Within minutes the local news sent out a a text alert stating that police and firefighters were on the scene at a house fire, but their efforts were being hampered by the alarming sound of gunshots coming from inside the house! Police ordered all neighbors within 1/4 mile to seek shelter in their basements until further notice. They shut down all power to the neighborhood. The house continued to burn fiercely as the firefighters simply tried to keep it from spreading to surrounding homes. That was all they could do at that point. They couldn't get right near the burning house for fear of being shot at. I  seriously could not believe what I was hearing.

I worried that things would keep getting worse and that maybe this shooter could get out into the community, if he hadn't already. So we started calling the schools to see if they were locked down. I was floored when my daughter's school had no idea what I was talking about. I told them what I knew. My husband called my son's school - they were in full lockdown. The secretary said the kids weren't even being allowed to leave their classrooms to go to the bathroom. We continued to listen to the scanner and within the next 20 minutes the school district sent out an alert that all schools were in lockdown. As much as you don't ever want to hear that your child's school is in lockdown - on this particular day it was almost comforting news.

The next few hours went by and we stayed glued to the scanner and the news as more details became available. It had begun with a domestic incident. Around 9 am, a frantic woman had called 911 and said "he has a gun and he's going to kill me". A man could be heard yelling in the background. Thank God for her, the woman escaped the house and ran. Police showed up to find the home engulfed in flames and heard the gunshots. At around noon the police released a photo of the man and said he was well-known to law enforcement and has lived in the town his whole life. Around 2pm the roof of the home collapsed from the fire. Police felt confident the man was inside and was no longer a threat, so they lifted the lockdown. But at the same time they acknowledged that they still didn't know for sure that he hadn't gotten out of the house at some point, so I was still very uneasy. I just wanted them to find him.

At 3:00 I got a phone call from my from my husband who had gone to pick my son up from school. When he got there, parents were being turned away. Suddenly the school was back in lockdown. When I was finally able to get through to the main office they said they had no idea why they were back in lockdown but they could not release the kids until the police gave the ok. I was petrified for a minute. Did they think this lunatic was near my son's school with his guns? I felt so helpless! The secretary sounded nervous. But she assured me the kids would be inside the school until the police felt it was safe... We had no choice but to wait, so my husband went to pick up my daughter at her school. There were no delays with her release. Shortly after he returned to my son's school, the lockdown was once again lifted, and everyone was able to go home. But at this point, the police still did not know for sure where this guy was. Finally around 5pm, an alert went out that he had been found dead in his basement. It was over. Not a great ending, but at least he didn't hurt anyone else as he clearly hoped to do...

They have since determined he died of smoke inhalation. He had holed himself up in his basement with an oxygen tank and a rifle, and apparently died while waiting for a fight, ready to open fire at anyone who came looking for him. So scary.

I'm very happy with the way our police department handled the whole thing as far as ensuring the safety of the children and residents of the town. It has to be the craziest thing they've ever been through. Our town has its share of crime for sure, but this kind of thing is very unusual - thankfully. It's definitely something we'll all remember for a long time to come. Just another example that you really do not know who your neighbors are. Always stay on guard.

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