The gym is my second home. I like it, in part, because there are lots of young guys lifting, grunting, breathing heavy … an occasional High-Five in recognition of a great set. The atmosphere returns me [mentally] to the days when I was training for bodybuilding contests.
The proliferation of young guys make sense: we have four universities in our back yard – Bethune-Cookman, Daytona State, a UCF branch and Embry Riddle Aeronautical. I think we get a healthy crop of first responders, too.
A couple of years ago, I bumped into Patrick. He was in his twenties and a disillusioned EMT for the county ambulance outfit. We hooked up for an occasional workout.
One day, he announced that he wanted to become a cop. I’ve heard that line before from guys who were only looking for a steady paycheck and a badge.
So, I questioned him about why he wanted to be a cop and carefully listened to the answers. He likes helping people. He has observed cops when he has been on calls with them and he believes coppery would be a better way for him to do it. He had already enrolled in the next academy class which starts in a couple of weeks.
He was pretty much absent from the gym for the next six months.
YOUNG COP SMACKED IN THE FACE
I congratulated him when he graduated from the academy and again when he got his first job a few weeks later with an agency nearby. The next thing I knew, he was in the last week of his FTO training.
Every day, when I arrived at the gym, I would look for his copper-colored Charger. I enjoyed hearing about how his previous shift went and the day-by-day learning about what the “assholes” might pull on him next.
That Tuesday afternoon, his car wasn’t there. OK, I figured, I’ll hit the weights and maybe he will show up later. By the time I had exhausted myself, I had not seen Patrick anywhere.
As I was dragging myself to the car, I spotted his copper Charger in the parking lot. I went back inside and did a sweep of the place, with no luck. I stowed my stuff and headed toward Patrick’s car. He popped up out the driver’s side door; phone to his head and a hand sign letting me know he would end the call shortly.
I waited by my vehicle. Finally, gym bag in hand, he started my way. We were standing at my driver’s door, between two parked vehicles.
“My FTO called me. We had a rough call last night …” his voice trailed off and he looked at the ground. “He called me to make sure that I am OK. He just wanted to talk.”
Those kind of calls are uncommon, so my curiosity was piqued. So, I asked Patrick what the call had been about.
Patrick paused. He looked at the ground and began to stammer. I knew something wasn’t right. Patrick isn’t the type who has trouble talking.
A million things were running through my mind; none of them good.
“About 1900 hours, dispatch sent us to a mobile home park on a sexual assault case.”
OK. That can be a whole bunch of different things: a woman complaining of a man touching her clothing, someone accidentally brushing a woman’s breast, or something much worse.
Patrick talked very slow, now.
On arrival, we were told that a little five-year-old girl had been raped.
WHAT! — RAPED?!
Who did it? The first question out of my mouth. The little girl identified a fifty-eight year old Hispanic next door neighbor as the perpetrator.
RAPED … AT FIVE YEARS OLD???
Patrick continued, “We called child protective services immediately.”
At that point, both Patrick and I were tearing-up and choking on words. I pulled him close, and hugged him for a minute.
I asked about the child’s parents. They live next door. They allowed the little girl to go next door to the neighbors to play with another girl … who turned out to be away. The male invited the 5 year old to stay and wait for her friend’s return.
The male then coaxed the 5 year old into a back bedroom where he raped her.
Patrick was almost sobbing as he related these events to me.
“How does an adult male even get aroused by a five year old child?” I asked rhetorically. We both shook our heads.
I asked if the male had been arrested. Patrick said, “No. The worst part is that we couldn’t rely on the statements of a 5 year old as probable cause in an arrest. We have to wait for the lab results before we can go snatch him up.”
I tried to reassure Patrick. I reminded him that he is not alone and I am available 24×7 if he needs someone to talk with.
As the conversation was winding down, Patrick offered this, “You know the worst part about it?” He paused and then continued, “The whole time we were there, the little girl was saying to us, ‘My pee-pee hurts’.”
When he said that, I nearly puked.
THE WOUND REMAINS OPEN
We parted company.
I invited him over to my place Thursday evening for a few adult sodas. Knowing that just being together somehow dissipates the pent up emotions which come with calls like that.
Patrick went into the gym and tried to work out his anger with the weights. That might work, but I doubt it.
We connected a couple of days later. He came over to my place; I introduced him to my wife and we promptly retired to my “study.” That would be a very small converted bedroom with a desk and a couple of chairs.
Oh, how I wish some conversation, a couple of Bacardi & Cokes and a few tears would fix it all. But, if only …
Editor’s Epilogue: Talking with Patrick was the kind of conversation every cop needs to experience occasionally in order to let off the steam. I remembered my past calls where there were children involved.
There was that night working at the Ambassador Bridge – spanning the Detroit River into Canada. A car cut the line waiting for Customs and drove right towards me.
I was ready to jump when the car screeched to a halt. A young woman jumped out with an infant in her arms. “My baby has stopped breathing,” she screeched, “Help me, please!!”
I took the tiny child in my arms – the way I’d learned with my own children. The baby was in a gown of some sort. “Has he eaten anything? Could he be choking?” I asked. The mother said, “No. He just stopped breathing as I was driving.” My training kicked in, without even thinking much about it. All the while considering calling for a rig. I started performing gentle compressions.
Within moments (seemed like a year at the time), the child took a deep gasping breath which was followed a second big breath and his eyes popped open. “Thank God,” is all I thought as I handed the baby back to its mother.
I remembered that as I thought of Patrick listening to a five year old little girl repeatedly say, “My pee-pee hurts,” while he did his business and tried to comfort the little one as his anger built at the swine who did this.
Most cops carry all of those memories – pent up in their heads and hearts. They are afraid to talk about them for fear of looking soft. So, they build up. One on top of another.
Until the moment comes that they explode. Explode light an overloaded, overheated pressure cooker. All at once. It a huge explosion. It goes … BOOM!
Another cop is broken.
Broken by the unloaded memories they were afraid to share for fear of looking weak.
How do we help them?
How do we save them?
God help us.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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