Monday, December 17, 2007

Husband Wife Shootings Nothing New

I read where a husband and wife shot it out up in Newbury, New Hampshire. According to the WMUR story “a woman was and killed after she and her husband fired guns at each other…”

“Police said that the couple was involved in a dispute, and afterward, Karen Dion grabbed a shotgun and fired it at her husband. Gary Dion then retrieved his own firearm, and, after being confronted by his wife, who still had her shotgun, he shot and killed her, police said.”

I must have been a cop too long; my first reaction after reading the story, “So, what’s new about that?” In the spring of 1972 during my rookie year I made two shootings on Palm Sunday; both were either between a husband and wife or between two “significant others”.

The first incident was early on in the shift, around three or four in the afternoon. When my senior partner and I arrived the emergency ambulance crew was hard at work putting a bandage wrapping on the survivor’s head; he’d been shot in the middle of his forehead, the bullet followed his skull around to the back of his head and exited creating a small flap that had minimal bleeding.

His “significant other” had been shot with the same pistol they’d been fighting over. The bullet entered near her wrist, traveled along the bones in her arm, bounced around inside her rib cage for a while prior to slicing her lungs and heart; she was dead before she hit the ground. Does that strike you as even a little odd; the one being shot square in the head was the one doing all the talking while the one shot in the wrist was dead on arrival?

Later in the same shift we were dispatched to another family disturbance where the step dad had begun beating his wife and step child. The little girl was around four years old if memory serves and there had been other calls regarding abuse reported. The wife grabbed a small 25 caliber pistol and emptied it into her husbands chest to get him to stop beating the little girl.

I was new to the business, having been a Houston Police Officer for only a couple of months at the time; I didn’t know how thick blood could look as the newly departed lay in a pool of his own fluids. I remember clearly that you could have dropped a half dollar on the points of entry and covered each bullet hole; great shot group, very efficient use of a small caliber pistol.

My favorite of all husband and wife disturbances was almost surreal in nature. We got to a small single family house, the husband was sucking wind from having been shot several times in the chest as he sat on one side of the living room; an interesting word to describe that portion of the house where they tried to kill each other off. The wife sat in a folding metal chair, similar to the kind found in almost any church or overflow auditorium. Her head was resting against the wall, the back part as flat as the black cast iron frying pan which had been used as a club on her; a large red spot dripped down the pale green painted wall.

We entered the house cautiously and wondered why the ambulance crew was just standing around outside. The two combatants were too proud to admit the need for medical assistance, to the point of making it a chicken match; “first one to pass out or die is the looser”, kind of thing. I almost forgot, the woman’s dear sweet mother was sitting on the sofa in between the two cheering for her daughter as we entered, “Shoot him again, shoot him again!”. A lovely home full of such devotion should have warning signs posted. We did manage to get a second ambulance so that both could be treated and transported at the same time without having to admit defeat.

I could go on and on; the time my partner and I made a shooting where a “threesome” had been living together; husband, wife and girlfriend, all under the same roof. It may have worked for a little while, at least until the wife came home from work and found the two locked in fond embrace in her bed; that was the straw that broke her camel’s back.

I could mention the wife beater who expired, his hands still gripping his wife’s hair in his fist. He neglected to remove her purse prior to beating her half to death in the kitchen, the purse that was on the kitchen counter, the purse she kept her pistol in. That pistol made breathing a new art form as we heard his last breath gurgle out; he sat upright, his eyes all glassed over with nothing left to say, in one of those tubular metal kitchen chairs popular in the late 50’s, chrome with two tone red and white plastic seat and back cushions. I don’t recall getting in a hurry to call for an ambulance as we made sure the scene was safe first, removing the pistol, cuffing the wife, bagging her hands to preserve gunpowder evidence and then we asked the dispatcher to send an ambulance; no, husband and wife shootings are nothing new.

Being a police officer was a learning experience, observing things which most folks would just as soon not have to witness. I suppose my twenty years on the force qualifies me as damaged goods, isn’t that what you call people who’ve seen far too much? I laugh at stuff that flips a switch inside my head, things which aren’t funny at all; I guess I joke around and laugh to keep from crying.

“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…”; I’m sorry, just another piece of police humor coming to the surface.

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