I was in one of those positions yesterday, where it probably would have been a good idea to be armed.
Before going any further, I’ll say that I’ve seen a dead body and covered stabbings and shootings - including two on my own street when I was a Citizens’ Voice intern last summer. I almost never feel wary walking into a crime scene or weird situation. After all, when I get sent to a scene, odds are very good that the cops are already there. My personal safety isn’t typically of much concern. You can save the worrying for the brave reporters in Libya and other active war zones.
Yesterday, though, was… different. My editor sent me down to Plymouth to cover a stabbing. On its face, it was really straightforward. Cops are there along with a camera guy from WBRE.
I chatted with neighbors while waiting for Plymouth Police Chief Myles Collins to talk to me. The people down the street gave the first indication that this was a rough area. Police confirm that indication when Collins tells me this was the third time that day they had come to this house.
Well, after police finish up, I talk to the people sitting on the porch in front of where the stabbing took place. This is where things get juicy and probably the point where my mom will call me when she reads this.
The people on the porch told me a number of stories about neighbors waving knives and threatening to beat people up. They paint the next door neighbor as a psychopath who is out to get them. So, when I say that I’m going to walk next door and see if anyone is home, I get this fun warning:
Have fun with that. That woman will probably stick a gun in your face. She’s crazy and likes to threaten people with it.
That leads to the big question: Do I knock or ring the doorbell?
Luckily for me, the neighbor answers that question for me. As I step onto the front steps, she opens the screen door and leans out. She saw me coming through the blinds.
"What do you want?" she snaps at me.
"Hi, my name is Patrick Sweet, and I’m from the Citizens’ Voice. I was hoping to talk to you about the stabbing that happened in front of your house."
"Oh. That f**cking rag paper… whatever." (One of her nicer responses.)
"Uh, yeah. Can you tell me what happened?"
She goes into a diatribe against her neighbors. Of course, in her story, the first people I talked to were the psychopaths, and she and her kids are the helpless victims. But when she started saying she wouldn’t put up with the neighbors “n**ger sh*t” any longer, it became clearer where the intolerance in the feud was coming from.
All the while, it also probably didn’t help her case that police believed this crazy woman was harboring the stabbing suspect. She’s a real winner.
Like I said before, there aren’t really a whole lot of situations that I’m put in where I’m worried about my safety. Dealing with all of the hate emanating from this crime scene, though, and knowing that at least one of the people I was talking to was armed, kind of made me want to join the many other journalists who hold a conceal-and-carry permit. Kind of.