The call came yesterday morning, Monday morning, about at 10:35 am. Monday's are notoriously less than productive for me in ministry life. Most Monday's I'm tired. Sunday's have a tendency to wear me out, even with the periodic Sunday afternoon nap. Mondays are pretty tough to get going. I used to take off on Mondays but then decided I'd rather have off later in the week when I can get going better, but that's another blog or not. You get the idea. The phone call Dave, what was the phone call? Oh right.
"Chaplain Ellis, this is B-town Police dispatch, Chaplain P is out of town today, can you respond to an incident this morning? It involves an officer that has been shot and killed." "Do you need an officer to come and pick you up?" (normal protocol) "No," I said and they told me where to go.
I got in my truck, after going over in my head exactly what she said, and telling the other staff at church, and headed East on I-10 towards the HRP, raceway. By the time I turned off I-10 to look that direction, I knew it was bad because there were four helicopters hovering way back. By the time I reached the scene, got past the perimeter which is not easy even with correct ID, parked, a half mile away, and finally found who I was to talk to, the County guys had already left to make the notification of the death of the officer. They just couldn't wait. Everyone else was focused on the situation at hand and considered that taken care of. Not why I came but I went to see what else I could offer.
I spent a good bit of time with the fallen officers partner, who was standing right next to his uniformed brother when the shots rang out. His partner was shot and killed instantly while he escaped any physical harm. He and another officer who came in shortly after shots were fired ducked, grabbed their brother, and drug him out of the trailer home. They were both really shocky when we visited. I checked to see if their families were notified they were ok and if they were alone. They nodded, offered few words, and continued to look dazed and confused by what all had happened. I politely declined to enter the ambulance where the fallen man lay, to pray for him. I did pray mind you, but declined to get in with him.
After awhile there I went back to the Command post to await the outcome and be ready to offer my services if needed. Man, was it hot. "Lord, please make it so that I am not needed any further today? Please keep all these men and women safe? Please let there be no more loss of life than has already taken place?"
I was pretty much useless the rest of the time, clergy wise, and am thankful for that. I mostly handed out water and gatorade. I can say without a doubt I have never seen so many officers of different kinds ever in my life. There were Baytown PD, Pasadena, LaPorte, Chambers Co, Game Wardens, Hiway Patrol, and Texas Rangers everywhere. There were aircraft circling, a bomb squad robot in action, and at least 3 different SWAT squads working. There were EMT units from everywhere, thankfully again, not needed.
It all ended pretty much the way I thought it might, the gunman dead in the house, probably from the first gunfire exchange or something he did himself not too long after the fact. It then took hours of coordinating dozens of specialized folks to make sure it was resolved some 8 hours later with no more loss of life. The day started off pretty much as normal. It ended in a day I will never forget. It just goes to show, as Jack Johnsons song says, "Never know."
It all happened so much faster
Than you could say disaster
Wanna take a time lapse
And look at it backwards
From the last one
And maybe thats just the answer
That we're after
But after all
We're just a bubble in a boiling pot
Just one breath in a chain of thought
The moments just combusting
Feel certain but we'll never never know
Just seems the same
Give it a different name
We're beggin and we're needing
And we're trying and we're breathing
Shocking but we're nothing
We're just moments
We're Clever but we're clueless
We're just human
Amusing but confusing
Helping, we're building
And we're growing
Never Know (hope I haven't violated any copyright laws) by Jack Johnson