On the scene

So there have been quite a few different emergency scenes I rushed out to in the last week, including a reported gunshot in the City of Norwich, a serious car versus tractor trailer accident in Columbus, and the early morning drug bust at two City of Norwich residences.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t exciting traveling out to a scene. I often remind myself to appreciate the opportunity of being able to witness such a wide strata of police and fire activities firsthand. They are experiences of great interest and depth. Here are some of my personal impressions.

Drug investigation

I get the furrow-browed look from an officer as I first appear on the scene as the less public personnel scatter to the remote parts of the site, hoping to avoid a reporter’s attention. I snap pictures of anything of interest as soon as I arrive. No roadside officers or civilians present; they are all located in the rear of the apartment house tucked away from my camera’s 300 millimeter view.

I see a group of distant officers look up from the back lawn and a few quickly go into the back door of the home. I boldly step into the driveway and just as I’m drawing the police chief’s attention, I’m asked to stay curbside. I wait and exchange ‘good mornings’ with a few officers on their way in and out. After about 10 minutes, Norwich Police Chief Joseph Angelino comes over and gives me an official police statement I can print.

I stay for a few minutes, taking more pictures looking around for alternative sources of information and find a neighbor in her driveway watching the commotion with her daughters. She gives me a spectator’s account of how the police stormed the home and at what time roughly. I then leave for the second location in the city that was raided and repeat my activities there.

Columbus crash and rescue

A gruff fire policeman directing traffic orders me to clear the road. I pull over and begin the walk down to the scene. I hear it before I see it.

I walk maybe a 150 yards and see a helicopter parked in the middle of the roadway. Crews clustered around the side of the craft suddenly scatter and the turbine begins to wind. The ground roars with blown dust and the chopping blades patter through the sky, out of sight.

I walk another 150 yards and come to the T-intersection of the main road and the road where the accident took place. New Berlin Fire Chief George Hanslmaier warmly shakes my hand and walks with me toward the scene. I forgot my pen and ask an ambulance attendant if I may permanently borrow one of hers.

We walk another 150 yards down the side road. The commotion is settling, the victim evacuated, the emergency contained. Fire crews now relax and chat while police officers start their investigating.

Each step is the sound of crunching safety windshield glass beneath heavy work boots. It’s always scattered across the ground like feed for the birds. The smell of steaming engine fluids and smote metal lies warped and twisted at the center of everyone’s attention.

After writing down the obvious in my notepad, I spend my idle time snapping more pictures than I know what to do with as I wait for the State Trooper in charge to give me a rundown of the events.

I gather tatters of the story here and there from firemen and eye witnesses. Often the little things can be the most compelling, but it’s hard to write a story without the central plot, and so I’m patient.

The troopers begin taking measurements and doing math on the impact. While walking back and forth to his vehicle, I’m presented with the operator’s information. The road is clear now and the barriers have been removed, but my car is still 450 yards away. I walk back, filling curious bystanders in on what happened and to whom as I go.

Foul city shooting

The most exciting and tense part happened first.

The radio dispatcher, sounding concerned, called out local police to the scene after a caller said a man fired a gun from the roadway in the city. Each transmission began with the words “shots fired.” They do not explain why or at what on the radio.

I thank fate for giving me a reason to leave the chattering keyboard and numbing computer screen for the warm spring air. I’m halfway there when suddenly traffic leans over to the wailing sirens and several patrol vehicles rev past.

Jessica, back at the office, and I keep in touch on the developments and directions still coming across the scanner.

I drive down Hale Street looking for signs of violence and flashing lights. I find a multi-agency gathering of half a dozen cars parked at a local business. I park and by the time I walk over, two thirds of them are already leaving.

Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Richard Cobb pulls up in his unmarked patrol car and tells me it was much ado about nothing. The only apparent victim was a gaggle of geese sliding across the river.

I shrugged as the sudden intensity that flared in commute dissipated rapidly. I strolled back to my car and drove toward a parked NPD patrol car along the service road near the river. The officers were searching the ground. They had nothing to say other than there wasn’t much to say. I slowly walked back to my car, enjoying the warm summer breeze and went back to my desk.

Today's Other Stories

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