A few years ago I witnessed a drive by shooting. I was doing a rehab at an old public housing project and just happened to be behind one unit pulling wire.


Five little pops down the street. I popped out and watched a black Nissan Sentra accelerating hard away from a house down the street. Right at me. There were three teenagers in the car, purse-lipped and stonefaced. I think they were scared shitless. The driver braked hard, turned gracelessly and sped away.

The street remained totally quiet.

Now I keep a pencil in my tool pouch, and had a book of wire markers nearby. Out came my implements, down went their license plate number. I slipped the pad back in my pouch.

About a minute later a beat up silver toyota accelerated away from the house where the shooting had taken place. Presumably, this guy was carrying the drugs and money, so the cops wouldn't find any. Out came my pencil, down went another number.

After the second car cleared the scene, suddenly people came out from everywhere. It seemed like there was an unwritten rule that everybody stayed inside until the victim's buddy had cleared the scene. That hurdle past, out came the folk. It was a block party--- no a gawk party----- as everyone came out to see. I could see people talking to each other, gossiping as if they were at the center of a story.

About ten minutes after the shooting the police arrived. And the ambulance. It seemed like forever, but really they arrived pretty quickly according to my watch. They came in numbers and quickly fanned out on both sides of the street, working the neighbors who all, sadly, had been indoors and thus hadn't seen a thing.

I waved one of the cops over when they got close enough. "Want a licence number?"

The cop was a tall, african-american man with very dark, ebony skin and long, graceful features. He flashed me a toothy grin. "Well, we already know who did it. See, they only wounded the guy so he told us."

Five shots and all they did was wing him. Not that I'm complaining. Attempted murder beats successful murder hands down. But he took my numbers and grinned again when I mentioned the Toyota, turning aside to whisper the number into his radio. And then he turned and walked off.

Fifteen minutes later the ambulance and police were gone, and everyone back indoors, is if nothing had ever happened. I went back to pulling wire. I had a story to tell over lunch. The news never mentioned it. A drive-by must not be enough to make the news in Columbus, Ohio.