It was a dark and stormy night.
No, wait. It was an average South Philly afternoon. Outside there was a bit of yelling, but that's not so uncommon, and typically looking out the window illuminates nothing more than a collection of people walking down the street, separated enough that some choose to yell to the others instead of picking up the pace to get within speaking voice range.
"Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!"
So I looked out the window, to see three guys scuffling on the ground. For the first few seconds, I couldn't tell if they were fighting, helping a guy up who fell, fucking around, or what. My very first thought was probably a few friends who like to play rough. There was a light layer of snow which may have meant snowy mayhem or may have meant slip-and-fall. Or it may have meant pistol-whip. All three guys got a bit more upright, the one in the middle almost shooting up. He was facing me, looked terrified, and blood was coming down his forehead from his hairline. "Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!", as he took off down the street. The other two guys watched him run as they adjusted some things into their pockets, and casually walked across the street, and out of view.
In the few seconds that they were scrambling on the ground, I could have grabbed my camera, but it wasn't really a thought. It was my first thought as soon as they stood up, but I was in
Instead, I just stared.
Only a minute or two later a cop car zipped past on the nearer side street, the same one they went towards but in the opposite direction. In the time it took me to type a message stating such, 3 more cops cars, a fire truck, and an EMT filled up my street. People poured onto their front steps, I wasn't really sure who saw what or if anyone knew what happened. After exchanging a few messages regretting the wasting of those seconds, and mulling over my 99.999% unlikeliness of being able to identify anyone, I grabbed my coat and ran down the stairs anyway.
Cops were walking up and down the street talking to people; I went to the closest one and started telling him what I saw. He seemed completely uninterested, but that faux thankfulness that people give when they want you to just finish up and go away. "Yes, yes, thank you, have a nice day".. Disappointed about the apathy but figuring they have whatever they need I started walking back towards my door, when another more activated cop is rushing by asking for updates, and the one I talked to did mention I'd seen some of it, so the new one asked me to join his partner at their car. I told them what I'd seen and they asked if I thought I could identify the guys. I said I really doubt it, but they asked if I'd come with them and try anyway.. of course! So I get into the back of their car.. I didn't expect it to be a big plastic bucket. There was a pool of broken safety glass on the floor of the other side. They take me a few blocks to some other cop cars blocking off part of a street with two guys being patted down near a car. One of them fits the basic description perfectly, but simultaneously could be anyone at all. Black, mid 20s, average height and weight, wearing dark winter clothes. I was too busy gaping to pay attention to facial features or clothing particulars. The other guy was way off, pretty big and wearing red... so I told them no idea on the one, but as far as their info goes that "type" is what they both looked like, and definite no on the other one. It was kinda weird. I made a point to talk to the female partner of the guy who initially ganked me, but she was completely passive in everything. She only relayed my info to him, and seemed to not actually do anything at all besides support role.
Whee! They called in my negative id!
We get back in the car and they pull around another cop car saturated corner, and the driver got out to talk with one of them. I hear the other guy complaining that they've tried 6 languages so far and they still can't find anyone who speaks the attackee's language. ("Nobody speaks this guy's language! Not even his family!") And his story's confusing. He keeps telling them his home address, they mistook it for where the crime happened, everyone's confused. Of course, likely all this guy can say in english is "ahh" and his home address, I guess they picked up on that eventually. The cops brought me back to my block, back to the "crime scene" to ask me a few more questions about what I saw in context. We walk right up, everyone's walking through the snow, touching stuff. There's a small splattering of blood on the curb, and they notice a bullet. (And oh, right.. they kept asking people we passed if they heard any gunfire. I hadn't, and no one we passed said they had, but I suppose someone did because from what I gathered that's why they were there so fast in the first place, someone called in a report of gunfire.) It wasn't spent though, and they guessed that it fell out of the gun when the guys pistol-whipped the asian guy. I'm feeling a little funky, like "Not-that-I'm-complaining-but-should-I-r
Time enough to freak out a bit and further regret the camera-slowness, and then the doorbell rings! Time for another adventure! They say to come back to the car on the end of the street... I run up and grab my keys, run back out and on the near side of the street, a woman in a car (both plainclothes) says that she's with the police and asks me to describe the guys I saw to her. She's the kind of woman who's layered in makeup and rings, with claw-like fingernails that she wraps around small animals when you see her in a pet store, cooing in a raspy voice about how sweet this bunny is while she asks you what clubs you go to because her daughter's kinda alternative and she's so cool and all her daughter's friends wish she was their mom. I went through the clothes for her, over and over. Were they in hats? What kind of coats? Did they have any facial hair? What about their shoes? Were they in jeans? I didn't know virtually any of these answers. "They were dark, winter kinda clothes. If they were jeans they were dark, not blue. I didn't see their shoes. I didn't notice any colors or logos. I know one didn't have facial hair, I'm not about the other one." Over and over. Finally the cop who'd taken me around earlier called out from his car, "Are you stealing my witness?", with a laugh. Oops. I hadn't even seen them waiting, what with the claw-beast
Away we go to the station, nothing's going on but they want me to give an official statement. On the way they laugh with each other about how the sargent walked right through the blood, some oddness about them calling in the scene closed, but specifying that they don't want it broadcast yet. I dunno. Giving the statement was anticlimactic at best, by this time I'm sick of not being able to answer questions and despite the fact that at the moment my info is all they have, soon enough they'll get an interpreter to the hospital. I can't get over being 2-4 feet away from the difference between "Here they are!" and "If they were standing in front of me, I wouldn't know." and not having the clarity of mind to do something about it. The thought is with me every second.
On the way home, the cops turn the radio on to Q102 and both smoke, despite the large "no smoking" sign painted on the dash. I got in on the wrong side and spend the ride trying to balance my feet in a way that's steady within the bucket, but so my soles won't grind against the glass.