While staffing the door checking IDs for a rock concert, a patron informed me that he heard gunshots just down the street from our venue.
I couldn’t hear any gunfire due to the music and chaos in the entryway, but the person was very believable and convincing. In a career where I assess if people are lying to me often, I can usually spot a story. This guy truly believed that there were shots fired.
I radioed to the rest of the team that a patron reported gunshots outside the venue. The police were notified. Most people who were outside on the patio came inside the bar, as they actually did hear the gunshots. There was nothing else for me to do except to continue working the door checking IDs and scanning tickets for the show.
I was near the end of my shift when this chaos happened, so I got to clock out and head out to my truck. I didn’t make it very far. I saw candy lights from numerous Portland Police cars flickering and flashing. This type of bright red and blue colors lighting up the sides of buildings only happens when there are fireworks or police lights. I saw several groups of what looked like Swat team members creeping along the side of a building just feet from me. No perimeter had been set up yet, so I could have walked right up behind these guys in flak jackets carrying AR-15 rifles and shotguns. Had I been a complete idiot.
Even though it was perfectly clear that these were real officers dealing with a potentially fatal situation, they looked like some regular dudes playing Airsoft or paintball. But out in the city. With real guns and uniforms. And I am only feet away, directly behind them on the sidewalk. I remember thinking, “If somebody fires at these officers and misses them, I could be an innocent bystander in seconds.”
I’ve always been fascinated by and drawn to police activities. When I see a police situation I usually go towards it like a magnet. Perhaps most security staff are like this. Since we interface with law enforcement often, and we are, in a very general way, in the same field as they are. And many security officers do indeed wish that they were real law enforcement.
I heard a calm voice over a bullhorn saying things like, “Get down on your knees. Now keep your hands up in the air. Move SLOWLY. Now back up to the sound of my voice. SLOWLY. Now put your hands on your head. SLOWLY.” I watched some teams establish positions and flank the events in the street. A car had been stopped in the middle of the street and they were slowly having each person exit the car and move into Police custody. I gathered that the person who was shot earlier was already taken to the hospital by ambulance. I was witnessing the very careful cleanup of the situation and removal of the alleged shooters. I think I even heard radio chatter about a sniper on a rooftop. I have to admit, seeing officers with these kind of tactical weapons drawn made me think of the epic shootout in the streets of L.A. in the movie HEAT.
This was all very exciting to me, and then I realized a different problem. My vehicle is parked on the street just a few yards from this car. The street parking is on each side of the street going the same direction as the flow of traffic. So my truck is parked parallel to the curb facing the same direction as the pulled over perp car in the middle of the road. The Police did have this area marked off with yellow tape that says POLICE. DO NOT CROSS. My truck is inside an active crime scene. I’m gonna be here a while. And possibly have my truck riddled with bullets like the Ford at the end of Bonnie and Clyde. It’s a 1999 Toyota 4Runner with 320,000 miles on it. So honestly, now that I think about it……fire away, gangstas.
I moved away to relative safety behind a concrete garage in case of a firefight on the streets of Portland. I texted my boss that my truck was unfortunately still inside the crime scene tape and that Police have their guns drawn. He texted back, COME BACK. HAVE A DRINK. WAIT IT OUT. But of course, I stayed to see the outcome.
While I’m thinking about the surreal scene and inconvenience of having my truck stuck in a crime scene potentially all night, several men within shouting distance are thinking that the police might kill them right now. They are on their knees in the middle of the street with guns aimed at their center of mass. Their lives could very conceivably end in a moment by automatic machine gun fire.
I walked around the block a different way, backtracking so I could get a better view. By the time I emerged around the corner of the building they had successfully cuffed the people in the car and driven them off for processing. Now the police and forensics people were combing the street for evidence. I could see the police and the bystanders visibly relax since the situation was now over. Now they are going to go through that car looking for anything they can find. And that takes time. Hell, my truck might be stuck here until sunrise. I was considering if I should call a cab, then return to get my truck tomorrow. Or just go back to work and have a few drinks and hope that it gets cleared up by closing time.
I realized that I was still wearing my security uniform from work. I still had on the bright yellow shirt that says SECURITY on it. I think I even still had my earpiece in my ear. I was dressed in all black. I could see the yellow security tape just on the other side of my truck. I approached the yellow tape very slowly, pulling my jacket open a bit so the yellow security shirt was visible.
“Excuse me, officer. I know that this is a crime scene. I know you’re very busy. But I just worked a double at my job as security and would love to get home. That’s my truck right there. Is there any way I could drive under the tape and get home to sleep?”
One officer across the street responded how I expected. “Nope. You’re gonna be here a while.” Luckily another officer said, “I think we can get you out. Hang on.”
I paced around slowly waiting for them to call me over. But some officers started moving the crime scene tape even further out, expanding their area to look for more evidence. Now my truck wasn’t just on the edge of the crime scene, it was deep within it.
The officer that was sympathetic to my situation got busy searching for drug residue and bullet casings. So I asked a different officer, repeating that I just worked a double shift as security and just wanted to get my truck out and go home.
This one invited me inside the crime scene tape to examine my truck for damage. We both walked around it, shining our tactical flashlights all around my truck looking for bullet holes, or drug bags or bullet casings underneath. Honestly, a bullet hole in this truck would be a pretty unique badge of honor. But, we didn’t find any.
The officer said he would walk over and lift up the yellow tape and I could drive out under it. I had to crank my wheels hard to the right and drive right up on the curb since there were cars parked close behind and in front of mine. And they didn’t want me driving on any of the street since they were still looking for syringes and casings. His final advice to me, “Oh yeah, please drive VERY slowly as you do this.” Damned right I will. The unspoken fear was that another officer might think I was trying to drive away without permission, or that I was a cohort of the people they just drove to jail and had a truck full of heroin with me. And that they could open fire.
The officer pulled up the yellow tape and let me slowly drive underneath and out. I don’t think I’ve ever driven so cautiously and safely before. The officer holding up the yellow police tape for me to pass under did it exactly the same way I would pull up the velvet rope at the venue gate for a band member to pass under.
I looked it up later and the police stated that it was possibly a gang incident with people in the car shooting up in the air and at another person they saw on the street. The shooting victim was taken to the hospital and survived. The other people were arrested for the obvious reasons. I got home safely around 3am and quietly snuggled my step kids and my fiancé.
Pretty sure I dreamt about hearing gunshots all night.