Its not a full moon, but that’s usually the first thing people suspect when something like this goes down.
I was at work early this morning, shortly after 8am. My boss and I were getting ready for a presentation for a potential client. He parked outside the door rather than at his usual parkade so we could load up his car. We brought down our equipment shortly before 8:30, and as my boss went back up to restock his business cards, I heard screaming outside. When you live downtown in a city full of lane ways you get used to the occasional scream. Sometimes its a playful scream from someone having a bit too much fun, especially with a downtown party area so close by. Sometimes, its an angry scream, the kind that happens when a drug addict is high or trying to get high. Usually the anger can be heard for several blocks. This scream was different. It wasn’t just one followed by laughter or yelling, it kept going. It held… despair. It was the kind of sound you hear when a person has let go of all their emotions.
I stepped outside to see what was going on. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have, but curiosity and the strong need to help drove me to it. I saw a two buses on the street, and a woman crying at the lane way opening. A police officer walked near me, gun in hand at the ready pose, and approached the first bus. That’s when I noticed several police officers at the bus front door, and they entered inside. I could only see shadows, until they pulled back, and a man emerged, hands on his head. He did as they ordered, dropping to his knees, and then lying face down, while they slowly approached, guns pointed. He was handcuffed, and then rolled over. Blood covered his shirt. I turned, alternating from video recording to walking backwards in disbelief that the scene was taking place right in front of me. As this took place more police officers showed up. Unmarked Suburban SUVs blocked my boss in from behind, trapping us and keeping us held as witnesses to the aftermath of a crazy scene. I moved out of the way as police officers showed up, one in full gear, holding either a rifle or shotgun diagonally in front of him. He seemed relaxed, but I sensed his hands were prepared to point the gun and shoot when necessary. I remember thinking, I should get out of the way, and moving off to our building’s entrance. An ambulance arrived on the other side of the bus, it had to back up to let paramedics and a stretcher through. The police cordoned off the area, and we asked if we could get out. It would be some time before that would happen. Officers took statements from the woman, and my boss went to get her a towel because she had blood on herself as well. The paramedics worked on the suspect, his shirt undone and blood everywhere, and we were given the story by a person in the building. Her coworker was on the bus when the suspect pulled a knife and held the woman hostage. After she got out, he turned the knife on himself. I could see she didn’t escape unscathed. Although calmer now, she held the towel to her hand tightly. I looked around, and there were no journalists in sight. It seemed odd to me.
Seeing there wasn’t much more we could do, and worried about whether we could make our presentation meeting on time, my boss asked again if we could get out. As I got into the car, I saw my coworker arrive from his vacation at the door, and I welcomed him back sarcastically. The black suburban SUV pulled out behind us and we were able to leave as the paramedics readied the suspect for the stretcher. It was 8:50.
We drove to the presentation, and then to a site meeting after. We returned to the office, and I stepped out for a late lunch. There was no sign of what happened, it was all like a dream, or maybe even a nightmare. My coworker said there was blood everywhere from the suspect in a torso shaped print, but I could see none remained. As I walked to get my lunch, I looked at the sidewalk where I remembered the woman standing. I could see 3 drops of blood that still remained. It wasn’t a dream.
At the moment, I’m not sure what surprises me more. That it felt so surreal, like I was part of a CSI episode. That people openly blamed the fact that the suspect and those like him should have been locked away (how do we do that until something like this happens?). Or that when I returned, it was like nothing had happened. Vancouver is known for spray washing its sidewalks and streets, which is odd for a city with so much rain. But I had to look for those 3 telltale blood drops to prove it was real. I have the video I took. Nothing glamorous, but I decided not to send it to any news outlet. If I were her, I wouldn’t want to relive the moment on tv. I’m not sure how I’ll feel tomorrow, but for now, I’m still in disbelief.