A Normal Friday Night

I thought it would be just a normal Friday night. Popped into Fred Meyer right after work to get something for dinner, then decided to leave because I could not find anything I wanted. I was in the store about 10 minutes. On the way in, I noticed one cop car at Starbucks. Nothing unusual, they could have been stopping in or checking something out. On my way out to my car I noticed more cop cars, sirens and more cops arriving by the minute and paused in the lobby to see what was going on. A Fred Meyer employee advised people to leave out of the opposite set of doors, or maybe not leave at all. I debated a minute about leaving but something told me I should stay put. I did not want to be that random dumb civilian who got caught in the cross-fire nor made the situation worse.

A few of us were milling out in the lobby seeing if it was safe for us to leave and wondering what was going on. I could see the cops moving around the Starbucks outside and I realized this was developing into something more serious. And then I heard what I thought be one shot. I could see at least two of the cops with guns drawn, one handgun and something that looked like a rifle. I still had no idea what was happening, except for guns drawn never means anything good.

I could feel the officers emotions skittering around trying to figure out what to do and how to contain the situation. I had no idea what the situation actually was. I am not generally a dramatic person so I am not entirely sure why I stayed out in the lobby, which was enclosed only in glass, rather than going into the store. I also think at that point Fred Meyer had locked the lobby doors that led to the outside. As I was watching, the door from Starbucks opened and the suspect came out, his back to the lobby area, gun drawn, feet planted, pointed straight at the cops. As things often do, time slowed down and that moment is forever crystallized in my mind. I can see him vividly in my mind and realized at that moment how incredibly serious the situation had become and I thought he was going to die.

There seemed to be the longest pause and then the “pop-pop-pop” of gunfire. I didn’t see the cops shoot him or what happened next. I had no desire to watch and I remember scrambling around a little bit and then thinking I should get down to make myself less of a target in the event bullets went astray as I had nothing between me and the situation but glass. Some people were hiding behind a large ice freezer and I think other people ran into the store. I remember the looks on the faces of the people hiding behind the freezer, basically frozen in terror, once the gunshots stopped. Everyone was asking everyone else if they were okay and I just wanted to get out of there.

I was thinking about what I would do if the cops hadn’t got the suspect or if he came in the store, where would be the best place to hide. I went all the way to the back of the store. The fear and the terror was a palpable feeling, not just from myself internally, but others too. I felt sick to my stomach and had no appetite by then. I figured the cops must have killed him or contained him because I didn’t hear any additional gunshots.

Within the next few minutes they put the store on lock-down and I was milling around with everyone else. Some people had no idea what happened, others made the comment about the police shooting someone and then I had some brief conversations with other folks about where they had been and what they experienced and what I experienced. Most people and employees had no idea what happened or why the store was on lock-down.

The lock-down did not last very long and they were letting out people out of the doors on the South side of the store. I walked all the way around the parking lot as the police taped off a good portion of it. Cops were everywhere, up and down 28th from Broadway to the Fred Meyer and of course my car was parked in the taped-off area. I saw the news crews and other people looking on. I ended up talking to one girl about what had happened as she lived in the area and I thought about how to get to my car and get home but I did not want to talk to anyone else about it. I wanted to get home and get out of there. Police officers were escorting people to their cars and I waited a few minutes for the cops to escort me over to my car and then I got out of there. There were a lot of emotions running through me at that time, but overall I was okay and things could have been much worse.

I found out the next day that the suspect was an armed fugitive wanted on a Federal warrant and that the FBI and the US Marshalls were there. This did not make me feel any better. I called the non-emergency line for the police to let them know I had been there in case they needed my information. I read they had taken witnesses on a Tri-met bus and talked to them and photographed them. When I went straight back into the store, my only thought was to get as far away from the scene as possible and so I never did talk to the cops.

I had been texting my brother and one of my co-workers because I thought someone needed to know where I was. I have no recollection of what I was texting and a lot of the moments were fuzzy in my mind. I ended up going to McDonald’s to get food and saw yet another unmarked cop car heading down Broadway to the scene. It is most likely the scariest thing I have experienced to date. My brother came home early to make sure I was okay and a friend came over and I gave them the story as I could remember it.

A shot of whiskey was in order after that experience so he went and got some Jameson, of course. I felt like crying, but didn’t and felt drained and exhausted. My brother and I stayed up late talking about it, I talked to my nephew and my other brother on the phone too. For me it was a matter of processing the emotions of being in the situation. I questioned whether or not I was actually or danger or if I was just making it more than it was. It very easily could have been much worse. I think we tend to do that when we are trying to make sense of something that seems so very senseless.

I am so grateful there was no loss of life and no one else was hurt but the suspect. What a crazy thing to have happened. I’ve been quiet about it because I did not want to sensationalize it anymore that it already was and I needed time to process and think about it. I had a very busy day Saturday and went to work as normal, just telling a few people what happened. I also called a small number of friends and family to let them know I had been there and was okay because I wanted them to hear it from me rather than from a post or something else. We had a holiday work party that night and I had another friends’ birthday party and I was just wiped out from the events of the past 24 hours. I didn’t get out of bed on Sunday until almost 11am.

I don’t feel more scared to go anywhere though I do get a little freaked out when I hear sirens because I now clearly realize what could be at stake. I can only begin to imagine a tiny little bit what the people involved in mass shootings might have felt, or the cops who were called in to handle the situation I found myself in might have felt. I thought about what would cause someone to be so desperate he would pull a gun on cops knowing what the outcome most likely would be and quite possibly could be his death. Lots and lots of thoughts. Even now it seems like I wasn’t there and it wasn’t real and it wasn’t me. But it was. And I was. For whatever reason.

It definitely took me a full day of rest yesterday to feel back to normal. I didn’t even leave the house. Not because I was scared, but I wanted one single day where I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I watched football and movies and took it easy. I’m still thinking about what happened. I don’t know why I was there, maybe just simply a matter of wrong time, wrong place. One thing that is clear is that you don’t ever know. I could have left the store because I didn’t want to be inconvenienced and wanted to get on my way, but something told me to stay back. I am glad I listened to my intuition because I might have found myself in a much worse situation.