June 5, 2012

Reflections on a 6AM 911 Call

Yesterday morning, I took the dogs out at around 6:00. As I stood there, waiting for them to do their morning outting, trying to stay as asleep as possible while standing up, I hear something that sounds like an angry bird screeching. I listen closer and realize it’s a person. And there are words.

“Help me!”

I stand there for a few seconds, now quickly waking up, listening closely to make sure I’m not imagining things. Sure enough, someone is screaming bloody murder, “Help! Help me! Aghhhh!! Help me!”

I walk out in the back yard and try, as best I can, to determine what direction the screams are coming from. I’m in a nightgown, and people are leaving for work, so I don’t want to go in the front yard if I can help it. Best I can tell, the screams are coming from the east side of my street.

I stand there for another second and think. Do I call 911? What do I know, really? Someone is screaming for help somewhere nearby? I don’t know where, I don’t know who, I don’t know what’s going on. Do I even have anything to tell the 911 operator? Won’t I sound like a crazy person? “I think I hear voices coming from somewhere.”

Then, for some reason, my mind goes to Shana Hight. Do you remember her?

If you weren’t around then, or maybe you’ve forgotten, Shana Hight was a Navy wife blogger who was violently killed in her apartment while her husband was deployed. Her neighbors heard her murder, heard her screaming for help. And according to the police, not one person called 911. Maybe they didn’t want to get involved. Maybe they figured it was some kind of domestic dispute. Maybe their TVs were up too loud.

Maybe they thought they’d sound like crazy people.

I remembered telling myself then, if I ever found myself in that position, I would not be the person who didn’t call 911.

I came inside, found my cell phone and called. I told them just what I’ve told you – which wasn’t much. Then I changed clothes and waited for the cops to come. They did – about 45 minutes later. By then the screams had, obviously, stopped. They said to call if it happens again. And that was that.

I came back inside and went back to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I started to wonder whatever happened in Shana’s case. Did they catch the killer? Did her family get some closure, some justice?

So I did a google. Please excuse me for not posting all the links here, but there are tons of video news stories online.

They did catch Shana’s killer. It was her neighbor, Robert Lee Sadler III. A sailor. Someone she knew, probably had a fair amount of trust in, since he was a sailor like her husband. From what I read, it looks like he knew her husband was deployed, and pretended to be her friend. Under false pretense, he asked for a favor and she let him into her apartment. And he killed her.

I remember, when Shana’s story started spreading, people were very quick to blame the victim. Oh, she’s in social media! She must’ve let some psycho stalker on facebook know her husband was deployed! She had bad PERSEC! She shouldn’t have blogged about her husband being gone! And on and on. It rubbed me wrong, mostly because it was all based on assumptions and unfair suspicions.

Turns out, social media had nothing to do with it. It was just some freak who was (it appears) about to be drummed out of the service already. And she had the tragically bad luck to be his neighbor.

She was just a victim, pure and simple.

It gets even more tragic. Everyone, their families and friends, describe Shana and her husband, Scott Dunn, as a match truly made in Heaven. When Shana died, Scott’s heart died too.

Scott took his own life not long after Shana’s death. A witness, his friend, says it was accidental. From what he described, I believe it. In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s Sadler’s fault either way.

The rest of the morning, while I waited to fall back asleep, I thought of those two poor families. I can’t begin to imagine how much pain they must be in. I’ve certainly been praying for them since I found all this out.

And I thought back to my own 911 call. I hope I wasted the police’s time. I hope it was just some tired, frustrated kid who didn’t want to get up and out of the house that early and was trying to embarrass his mom or something. I hope it was a woman with a psychotic fear of spiders.

I don’t have a real conclusion for this. Except that, at least I don’t have to wonder the rest of the day, “Should I have called?” I’d rather call and not need to….

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  1. Wow what a scary situation! I think you did the right thing too! Better safe than sorry!

  2. I'm so glad you called! Too many people assume exactly the same thing you did about whether they should call, or they assume that someone else will. It's horrible! It has even happened in cases where a woman was being beaten in the middle of her neighborhood street and no one called. Please update us if you find out anything more!

  3. You definitely did the right thing, but I'm concerned with the fact that it took them 45 minutes to check it out. If some woman was being raped or killed that's quite obviously not quick enough to do anything about it. Even with your basic information, that still warrants more attention, I would like to think...

  4. Here I go being the Psych major--it's called the Bystander Effect! The more people are nearby, the less likely ANYONE is to do anything! Everybody thinks someone else will take care of it. I'm sure you heard the news story on the man in NY who was stabbed and died on the sidewalk. He happened to fall within range of a security camera. Between the time he was stabbed and the time his body was picked up, 35+ people walked by without calling the police. One guy even lifted him up to see that he was bleeding and then kept going.

  5. I agree completely with Mel above. 45 minutes is pretty darn sad, EPPD! :( Good for you for doing your civic and neighborly duty!!!

  6. Definitely made a good choice on that one. I hope everything is okay. That is so so sad. Your reflections left me reflecting for sure.

  7. Good job for calling! You just never know... 45 minutes to respond? That's a long time!

    I remember when the story broke about Shana. I'm so glad that they caught her killer. I got chills, when I read that her husband took his life. Such a heartbreaking story.

  8. Heartbreaking is right. Ugh. I'm glad you called. I think I will remember this post the next time it's my turn to call... :(

  9. Good for you girl! I know exactly how you feel, having made my first 911 call just last week. We were driving home from dinner out and this guy in a truck in front of us was swerving like crazy on the freeway, I think he was texting, but he may have been drinking too. I wasn't sure, but by the third time he nearly swyped a car next to him, I called. I hope they got him, I'll never know, but at least I feel as though I did the best I could. I hope you feel that way too because you did great! :)

  10. I'm glad you called. So many people are willing think someone else will take care of it. I remember Shana's story in the news... So heartbreaking.

  11. Scary to hear & not know where it's coming from. I think I would have called as well- better to have a wasted trip then to find out later something horrible had happened.


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