We have a happy little gang at the back of the morning commuter bus. There is myself, Steve Meitz, newcomer Wayne Truax and a couple others. The conversations start up and rattle around for a few minutes until the bus pulls from the lot and we all eventually settle into our newspapers, iPads, Nooks, Kindles, or laptops. It’s a daily shot of conversational espresso, a small but thick and enjoyable mix of words and ideas.
Words matter. I published a post a short while back that posed the question: what is a writer? I concluded that the essential ingredient was a passion for language. On my morning commute the other day, as the conversation circled around the back of the bus, Wayne told me about his wife, an attorney, who would actually look forward to reading the legal decisions of a few particular judges because they took the time to write like they cared about the craft of writing; they had a passion for language. I would have never guessed that a decision written for a court case could be entertaining or something that someone would look forward to. Steve leaned over the seat and suggested the idea of doing a blog post contrasting standard police report versus a police report crafted with a love of language.
Here is what I came up with:
22 23, 2011. Location: 2413 Highlander Ave., Columbia City. A domestic disturbance call was reported at 1:27 PM and Officer Gabriel Mahoney was dispatched. Police presence arrived at 1:29 PM. An apparent argument was in progress as the officer approached the scene. Shots were fired inside the residence. Back up and an emergency medical crew were requested. The alleged victim, Jackson Scofield, age unknown, exited the house but collapsed in the yard. He was later pronounced dead at the scene. The officer on the scene entered the residence to find the alleged victim’s wife, Gloria Scofield, in possession of a fire arm which had been recently discharged. The officer on the scene relieved the alleged shooter of the weapon and a small dog, which was admitted to animal control for care. The suspect appeared confused and distant. Miranda rights were recited to the alleged suspect and she was taken into custody. Her only comment was that the victim “kicked my dog.”
—Officer Gabriel D. Mahoney, CCPD
A “Crafted” Report
My name is Mahoney. “Officer G.D. Mahoney” is what the name plate on my uniform says. Some of the guys call me “God Damn” Mahoney, but the name is Gabe. Here is how the whole thing went down.
I had just finished picking at my left nostril and flicking what was on my thumb to the floor when my radio squawked. The clock on the cruiser dash glowed orange reading 1:27. Doris was working dispatch and her voice mixed with static, “Gabe there’s a domestic dispute over on Highlander Avenue, are you close?”
“This is Unit 54. Yeah, I can take it, Doris. What’s the 10-20?” The address crackled back at me over the radio. “On my way.” At 1:30 in the morning there was little need for lights or sirens, and I pulled up in front of 2413 Highlander within two minutes of the call. Light poked from every window, piercing the darkness, and the front door stood open, a little odd for this cold November 22 morning. Correction, make that November 23, it was after midnight. Nothing good ever happens after midnight, I thought. I logged the call, put on my hat, checking in the rear view mirror that it was straight before stepping from my cruiser. I could hear some shouting and was about to slam the car door and amble towards the house when a series of six or more sharp reports popped across the crisp night.
“Oh, shit!” I ducked down behind the car more out of reflex than training and reached through the still open door for the radio. “Doris! I need back up and an ambulance, NOW. Shots fired! Repeat shots have been fired!” I barked, tossed the mic on the seat and peeked up over the roof.
At first I thought someone had closed the front door until I realized it was a mountainous man filling the opening. He stood there wavering for a second, took three unsteady steps and went down hard, face first. No hands came out to break his fall. I suspect there was a scribble on the nearest seismograph. I swear the ground shook.
Thumbing the strap loose and pulling out my side arm, I ran in a half crouch to a large tree using it for cover. With the barrel pointing starward and pressing comfortably against my left shoulder I yelled, “Police!” but there was no acknowledgement from anyone. “Drop your weapon!” All remained quiet. After a glance around the trunk of the tree, I ran for the mound lying motionless in the walkway, my handgun pointing towards the house.
I pressed the side of his neck with my free hand—no pulse—and my fingers came away smeared with red. Gravity was now thing only thing pulling thick cabernet-colored plasma from the holes in his body. It pooled darkly beneath him, spreading quickly, flowing to fill the seam between the squares of concrete making up the front walkway. I checked again for a pulse but he was definitely gone.
My heartbeat thumped in my ears as I pressed my back against the house next to the open door. I took a quick peek in and yanked my head back. “Police!” I yelled from outside. “Step out where I can see you with hands in plain view.” I heard only a single yip from a small dog. Stepping into the front hall I found crimson splatters and smeared footprints that had been tracked down the hallway by the large man now lying dead in front yard.
Carefully and quietly, with my gun fully extended in front of me, I traced the footprints to their source. On my left, halfway down the hall, was an arced smear where the now deceased man had used his hand to steady himself on his final walk. I stepped through the door into the kitchen and blood dripped everywhere like a Jackson Pollack study in red. I stood there slack-jawed with my gun held at my side until another sharp yip from behind scared the crap out of me.
I whirled and leveled my gun. There sat a woman as splattered as the rest of the kitchen with a Glock in one hand and a football-sized, hairless dog (just the right size for drop-kicking) restrained by the other. I checked my own gun pointing it at the ceiling.
“Ma’m?” I asked softly despite a hammering heart. She just stared blankly through me, and the dog gave another high-pitched bark. “Ma’m? Can I have that gun?” I took a step forward, but she didn’t move a muscle. “I’m gonna take this out of your hand and set it over on that counter, okay?” I reached out and gently slid the weapon from her hand. She made no effort to resist. I set it on the counter as promised. “What’s your name, ma’m?”
“Gloria Scofield,” she answered still in a bit of a trance.
“Is that your husband out front?” I asked and she nodded. “Can you tell me his name?”
“Jackson. Jackson Scofield,” she answered and finally lifted her eyes to me. “The son-of-a-bitch kicked my dog.” She kissed the gore spattered animal on the head and retreated back into her trance.
“Ms Scofield? We’re gonna have some people come take care of you and your dog.” I pulled a small card from my pocket and began to read, “You have the right to remain silent, but anything you do say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law…”
Which report would you rather read? Which one would you rather write? Take my word, the second one was much more fun.