My White Experience With Police

I believe that most cops have integrity and restraint. I also believe there are some really, really bad folks who become cops.  And yes, I’m white. I’ve seen cops first hand, when I was raped (by a scrawny white guy with a big knife) and at least 10 police cars showed up, along with the press and a helicopter from the trauma center. Most of the officers stayed outside, guns drawn, aiming at my balcony. I was in the apartment directly under mine, with neighbors I’d met 2 days earlier, as I’d just moved in 10 days before the rape. The Sgt who ended up shooting the guy (I refer to him as Numbnuts- does he really need a human name?)  in my bedroom went through hell for the shooting- which was a good shooting. Another cop had cuffed one of Numbnuts  hands as he was dozing in my bed. Then Numbnuts sprang out of bed and beat up the first cop- a rookie, who then got tossed out of the apartment. The racket heard from my neighbors’ apartment was horrible- bodies hitting the ground, shelves knocked over, stuff breaking.

Now, there was a wounded COP, and myself as ‘victims’ when the Sgt who shot Numbnuts got there. He didn’t know I was already downstairs, so was on full “protect and serve” mode when he entered the apartment. He was trying to find me.

Numbnuts lunged at him with the cuffs swinging, and all that was visible to Sgt  was a blur of metal coming from the hand of the rapist. He shot him thinking he was going to be shot. Sgt  had to go through target practice and administrative leave (standard procedure) and got grief for not waiting for the SWAT team. He also got grief for not killing Numbnuts, but he was shooting a moving target. The bedroom wasn’t huge. but Numbnuts was all over the place. There was maybe 6 feet between Sgt  and Numbnuts. He did the right thing, even though Numbnuts didn’t have a gun. He’d already beat up another cop. There was no reason to expect him not to attack. He’d been going at me for six hours. And there was a blur of metal.

I was able to reconnect with that Sgt a few times. He sat with me in the hall during the trial- both of us smoking under a “No Smoking” sign (I figured I’d just say “I’m with him.” if anybody said anything. Nobody did.). He was my ‘guard’ as I waiting to testify, and he also was on the list to testify, but after I spent a couple of hours on the stand, Numbnuts changed his plea during the lunch break. Then I saw Sgt again when he was a patient where I worked, dealing with an injury from target practice (the target jerked his neck hard when the wind blew up strongly as he was carrying it back to wherever they keep cardboard bad guys). When I went into his room to say hello, I said “you might not remember me, but..” and before I could finish, he was on his feet hugging me, saying “I’ll never forget you.”, through tears.  And he didn’t. He told me that he was often awake at night thinking about that day.

I ended up working with one of Sgt’s relative’s wife, and sent him a note through her husband to thank him. He was my hero in Jan 1987. When I moved back to my home state, I was able to find him again online, and he e-mailed me how that day was from his side. He didn’t take that shooting lightly. He didn’t know where I was, or if I was hurt/dying in the apartment. He shot when he saw blurred metal coming up towards him. Nothing but a seconds, if that, to make a decision. He told me that people seem to think that police don’t think much about shooting someone, but that wasn’t accurate. The cops who  are good at their jobs live with those decisions for the rest of their lives-from a different perspective that isn’t talked about.  And those are the “good” shootings.  Not the ones that make the news because of racial bias.

He had PTSD-like symptoms from that shooting, and initially was not treated that well by some of his co-workers, for not waiting for SWAT. He made a judgement call to find me. Things got better before he retired. He died last year after years of dealing with a brain tumor and other medical issues. We e-mailed on and off- and I always knew I could e-mail him, as we were the only two who knew what went on during all of that morning.

As soon as I knew Numbnuts was shot, I just spaced out, and was focused on what was going to go on at the hospital with the rape exam/test kit, as well as figuring out where to stay. I could have stayed with my aunt and uncle, no question. But I wanted to be closer to my apartment, since I had to leave with nothing but the robe and slippers my 5-foot nothing, 90 pound neighbor put over the towel I had when I escaped barefoot. I needed to be able to get to my apartment quickly, with the police, to get belongings the next day, after the crime scene people were done. I was able to stay with a co-worker about a mile from my apartment, and she went with me to the police station to finish the statement (7 typed pages over 2 days of giving the police information about what happened), and to the apartment where we met the police (who had to unseal the crime scene tape from the door- and they had my keys).  I found fingerprint dust, a lot of blood in the bedroom, smudged bloody handprints on the walls, my blood in various places, and the blown out sliding glass door in the bedroom (that the apartment complex wanted me to pay for; I was told to tell them that their insurance should cover it- and that I wasn’t in the apartment when the damage happened). I was still ‘shocky’, but was able to get my purse, car, and some clothes to get me through the week, so I could sort out where I was going to live- I couldn’t go back to that apartment.

 

I know that there are way too many documented stories about ‘bad cops’.  Every one of the police I dealt with that day, from the first guys on the scene to the detectives who worked Sex Crimes treated me well.  I had a lot of things that worked in my favor- like the guy being in my bed when the first cop got there. Everything that I told the police was backed up by blood stains (mine) in the apartment, as well as the bruises that showed up on my face and jaw, the hole in my lip where my teeth went through it, and the injuries noted during the rape exam. As a nurse, I’ve talked with police when they needed to talk to  patients. I couldn’t tell them anything other than “yes, it’s OK to knock and see if they want to talk”. And yes, I’m white. This all happened in 1987, when we didn’t have 24/7 news, so many things weren’t known by anybody outside of a specific area. Now we know a lot more.

For those who have had negative associations of police, I’m so sorry that it turned out that way in your situation.  I’m sorry if you’ve lost a family member or friend because of a cop that wasn’t following procedure and caused injury (physical or emotional) or death. I’m sorry if you’ve been targeted because of your race. I don’t know how you feel– but I have seen footage, and am incredibly sad and angry about what I’ve seen.  I’m angry about the kids left behind without a parent or other family member. I’m horrified that we’re not further along in seeing all  people in our country as worthy of our compassion, especially after so many years of oppression (yes, I believe this country is racist). It’s been 401 years since the first slave ship came to the US ( 1619, landing in Point Comfort, in what would become Virginia; the 20 slaves had been kidnapped by the Portuguese and transported by them).  I have found various “first slave ship” info – so if someone wants to comment about others, please feel free to do so.   The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863… 157 years since slavery was abolished and we need to do so much better.  White folks in general need to listen, not assume. We need to address the disparity in the criminal justice system.  We need to look out for each other. We need to do a lot of things.  And we need to remember that people need to have police that respect them as human beings. Many do.  But we need to do better.

But I CAN understand why many don’t see it that way.

In This World We Will Have Trouble…. or “Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…

John 16:33… “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” 

SO, what am I supposed to do, to 1) identify potential trouble, 2) protect myself from it, and 3) have practical ways to deal with what does happen?  

God gives me the ability to think. He gives me my intellect, judgement, discernment, and wisdom. But I have to use those things. Sometimes, especially when I’ve been  taught to give to others, help neighbors, and reach out to those in need, I can lose sight of something that is equally important- knowing when I am in trouble. Knowing when I am in danger, or when the evil of others is targeted against me is something I must pay attention to, and act on. God also gave me the ability to perceive danger.  I can’t shame myself into getting in harm’s way, because I’m afraid I won’t be perceived as a ‘good Christian’.  And younger adults don’t always have the life experience to discern ‘neighbor’ vs. ‘enemy’ when the boundaries are blurry… 

I was fairly new to Texas, and working as a nurse on a neurology/neurosurgery floor at night. During the day, I babysat a 6 month old baby from the next door apartment building. I was young (and had energy), and really enjoyed taking care of the baby, as well as my job. For the next 6 months, I had the little guy with me for 9 hours/day, 6 days/week. The baby’s mom and dad were younger than I was ( I was only 22 when I started watching “J”) and didn’t have much money.  Anyway, I usually used the money they gave me to get things for ‘J’. If it was raining, I’d drive his mom the three blocks to her work at the mall.  I was invested with this family, and really cared about the baby. 

Fast forward: I’d had a back injury, and been in the hospital. During that time, my coworkers moved my old apartment contents to a new place, as I was in traction. When I got out, I stopped by the old place, then went to ask the baby’s mom if she would be interested in cleaning my old place (my back was still tender), and I’d pay her- she agreed. At that time, she introduced me to her brother who had been recently released from prison (‘wrong place at the wrong time” was the story she was told), and I said hello- a very brief, generic introduction. We also agreed that I’d watch ‘J’ the next Saturday. 

Very early the next Saturday (about 4 a.m.) I got a call from the brother, asking if I could come over right away; the baby’s father had been in a car accident, and they needed someone to get the baby so they could go to the hospital. I jumped up and immediately got dressed and drove to the baby’s apartment.  I was met by the brother in the parking lot. He told me that the baby’s mom was talking to a friend, and was very upset- they’d bring the baby down in a few minutes. He went back, presumably to the apartment.  Long story short- he said they’d decided to take the baby with them, and would bring him back to my apartment later, at the time I was originally going to watch him. He asked if he could come back to my apartment since they didn’t have a phone to wait for news about  “E” (he’d called me from the corner convenience store). I knew they didn’t have a phone; it all sounded reasonable. But I didn’t know this guy, and knew he’d been in prison (for what, I wasn’t sure). BUT, I was supposed to help my neighbor. I took him back to my apartment.

I showed him where the phone was, and that there was soda in the refrigerator, and I went back to my room. The baby wasn’t going to be dropped off for several hours. I was a bit uneasy, and locked the door. I’d been out the night before, and got home late, so when I went to lie down, it didn’t take long to drift off. He said he was going to make some phone calls about the baby’s dad, and seemed fine being out in the living room with phone and phone book.  

I woke up a few minutes later with a knife at my neck.  I was threatened with death if I didn’t fully cooperate. He tied me up with the phone cord and packing tape, and for the next 6 hours, my life was torn upside-down.  He did things I’d never heard of, and beat me repeatedly. It was obvious that he couldn’t leave me alive since I knew who he was and where he lived- and if caught, he’d be back in prison to finish the first prison sentence, along with whatever he got for what he did to me.  

I should have listened to my ‘gut’ reaction to taking this relative stranger home with me. I should have required a face-to-face conversation with the baby’s mom, while I was still in my locked car in the parking lot in front of a busy road (before he got in the car).  I should have ‘run’ like crazy, but I was taught to help my neighbor. I wasn’t taught to think it through first.  And I wasn’t prepared to respond to someone who apparently needed my help, except to willingly give it. I should have had better skills to deal with this. 

During the time I was ‘stuck’, I kept looking for opportunities to escape. And I prayed a lot. He was never out of reach of the knife, until he finally passed out in my bed. I was bleeding, and got up to use the bathroom. I looked back at the bed, and he was still asleep. I grabbed a towel, and ran (as quietly as I could). I thought for sure he was behind me as I went down the stairs to the neighbors I’d met the day before (I’d only lived in that apartment for 10 days). Anyway, I called 911 from the neighbor’s phone (twice- first cop- a rookie- got beat up and thrown out of my apartment before backup was there- he beat up a cop).  When I ran, the risk was gone- die then, die later, or get out and get help. 

Police came, shot him in my bedroom, and every news station in town was there, as well as the hospital helicopter (for him) and an ambulance (for me). Officers were everywhere.  He didn’t die, had to go to trial, but he changed his plea to guilty after I testified for 2 1/2 hours, and I would only agree to a 60-year sentence (which at that time in Texas was the same as a life sentence in terms of parole possibility – the law changed a few months later to NOT require mandatory release after 1/3 of the time served, the rest of the time would be on parole…. he’d be under the department of justice ‘control’ until he’s 88 years old). It never ends, with parole hearings, he gets in trouble, goes to jail, gets out, gets in trouble again, and is currently in prison, awaiting a parole hearing. Keep in mind, he had been on parole for 38 days when he attacked me. Parole doesn’t work for people like him.  

I learned some very difficult, and late, lessons. 

I do NOT need to feel guilty for keeping myself safe. Am I supposed to help people?  Yep.  Am I supposed to be an idiot in the process? I don’t think so!  And helping  out of pride, just to end up tormented by evil won’t help either; I don’t think that’s what I was doing- I loved that baby. Proverbs 6:16-19 talks about things the Lord detests…not getting attacked by psychos isn’t on the list ! 

I should have asked to talk to someone I did know fairly well (his poor sister was so afraid I’d think she knew what he was up to- he’d planned the attack, and stole my address and phone number from her purse; she found out about it on the news after not being able to get in touch with me- I should have picked the baby up at 8 a.m.- and that’s the last thing she knew; she testified for the prosecution). If someone refuses to let me speak to someone I know, that’s a deal breaker.  And I never have the car doors unlocked while talking to someone I don’t know well enough to let IN the car. Ever. 

If something feels ‘wrong’, I should hit the road;  I can’t assume that being a Christian, and praying NOT to be attacked will result in being kept safe. Faith is crucial- but I can pretty well guarantee that the attacker isn’t being led by the Holy Spirit. I can only pray for my own faith, wisdom, and discernment,  and for the person to listen to reason and for God to intervene. But if they aren’t open to God, they’re not going to hear the Holy Spirit speak to them.  It might take some time and creative thinking… and having to deal with what they do to me to avoid getting killed until it IS safe to get away. I can recover from trauma; I can’t recover from murder.  I do believe God was with me that day. This man was determined to attack ME. He planned it and stole my address and phone number from his sister’s purse. I was the target. But God was still in control of the outcome. 

I need to know about surviving attacks, and what can prolong survivability. I’m responsible to educate myself now that I know what can happen.  In hindsight, I also help to educate others. And, I do feel that a big part of the church is NOT to directly address the possibility of these things happening to Christians.  Well, I can definitely say that nobody can ‘out-holy’ a sociopath. They simply don’t care. I needed to have more information about the real world. 

Know how to preserve evidence: Do not wash anything that has been touched or violated (especially yourself, even though the only thing you want to do is get ‘him’ off of you). For some reason (probably nursing school) I knew this was important, and it did save a lot of evidence. My attack was before DNA, but in today’s forensic world, what I did NOT wash off would have guaranteed a conviction. 

I need to have a set of requirements in place BEFORE I get into a  situation as to what warrants the ‘caution response’, or following through with that ‘gut feeling’ to get away from the situation. Staying alive is not a sin !!!  It is OK to apologize later for overreacting. Once I was attacked, I could never get that option back. I’d become a statistic. 

Proverbs 27: 12 “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

My huge fear is that churches are sending Christian young people out into the world with the idea that every situation is going to be a way to show the sort of love that ‘one lays down his/her life’ for.  Please, make the conscious decision to teach kids and young adults to think about the consequences of their actions. The part of the brain that conceptualizes the longterm consequences for choices isn’t fully developed until age 25.  “Help your neighbor”, ‘be a good Samaritan’, and ‘do unto others’  need to have thought behind them as well as the actions.   I was ill prepared for what I faced after moving out on my own.  And, I paid a huge price.  The words ‘rape’, ‘sodomy’, and ‘aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon’ are horrible- but talking about them isn’t as bad as being the target of them.  Prepare the kids. Put discomfort aside, and teach them to listen not only to their hearts, but to their gut. ❤