sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 21, 2012

but what was the first line?
posted by soe 3:30 am

I wrote this down in the statement the policeman asked me to complete:

I emerged from my building to see three police officers running across the street. They were chasing a young man. They caught him and got him on his stomach. [This first part was the first few seconds after walking out my door. I didn’t know yet I was supposed to be paying attention to the tableau, so I don’t know how he ended up lying on the ground — tripped? pushed? jumped upon? Regardless, I didn’t see that part, so it didn’t go into my statement.] One officer was yelling at the young man to stop, but he was already on the ground with an officer on top of him. The young man kept shouting something indistinguishable, except for “in my pocket!” Six more officers arrived on the scene, surrounding the young man. He was then allowed up to his feet.

It was at this point that I decided that I was going to sit myself down on our building’s stoop. It wasn’t out of fascination for what was happening. It was out of fear for the young man. Because nine police officers seemed like an awful lot for one young man. One young man who was really a boy, probably no more than twenty years old, for whom English was not his first language. Either he’d done something terrible, like murder someone or he was a terrorist threat. Except that he was standing up — without handcuffs on.

I’ve seen D.C. cops singly or in pairs take down wrongdoers who seemed far more threatening and belligerent than did this one boy, who had now taken his wallet out of his pocket [I’m guessing that’s what he was shouting earlier]. This seemed excessive.

The boy took off his hoodie and let it fall to the ground. I thought perhaps the cops wanted to see it, but they left it at his feet. His sunglasses and his wallet soon followed from his trembling hands.

My neighbor crossed the road to explain that the boy was helping to paint his house and to ask what was going on, but the lead police officer ordered him to back off and chased him back across the street. I don’t know if he went inside then or later because I couldn’t see his building from where I was sitting, but I know when I got up later he was gone.

Some officers retreated to their vehicles, one obviously to check the boy’s id. His back to a waist-high property fence, the boy wept, still hemmed in by five officers who clearly seemed to suspect he was going to bolt. I don’t know what he was saying, but I know he was talking because one of the women officers sharply told him several times to stop and to listen to her.

The paddywagon left, as did the police car that arrived at the same time.

I don’t know if they gave him a ticket, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they cited him for failure to comply with an order (or whatever that charge actually is), because the lead officer then came over to me and asked me if I’d seen what had transpired. I gave him those first three sentences above, and then he asked me if I’d heard him say anything to the young man. “I did,” I replied. “But not until he was already on the ground.” He then asked me to write that down in a statement, the approximation of which I’ve already given you, and not to steal his gold pen.

As I was writing, another cop showed up, but he was dressed in a white shirt rather than blue like everyone else’s. I don’t know if police supervisor uniforms have white shirts, but that would be my guess. Because I was writing, I don’t know why he was there or what he did.

A young officer was sent over for my statement and the primary officer’s pen. They all left.

And then the poor boy gathered his things and continued down the street in the direction he’d been heading when I’d happened upon the scene.

That’s as much as I can tell you. Whatever prompted nine officers to respond to the scene ended up with the suspect walking free.

But that’s clearly not the whole story. I gave you a middle of a story and an ending (mostly). But what was the beginning? Because I have to think that the story feels vastly different depending on whether someone in Dupont Circle accused him to his face of a crime, sending him fleeing into the neighborhood, or whether he suddenly saw the time, realized he was late for dinner at home, and began to run, raising suspicions of officers who happened to be driving past and saw a fully clothed, brown-skinned young man sprinting through a well-off area. Did he have headphones on and not realize he was being asked to stop? Was he, in fact, asked to stop before he was already on the ground?

What was the first line?

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