Thursday, December 10, 2009

Officer-Involved Shooting in Times Square: Merry Christmas!

This morning at about 11:20 AM, a plainclothes New York City police officer recognized a suspect in Times Square.  The man was a scam artist -- he apparently approached people, asked their names, wrote it on a CD and then demanded $10 for the "personalized" CD.  So the officer approached the suspect, who began running away.  The officer chased him. 

So far, this was only a mildly exciting day in New York City.  Mildy exciting, that is, until the suspect started shooting at the police officer.  The officer returned fire, shooting and killing the suspect right in front of the Marriott Marquis hotel.  The gunfire broke a window at the box office for "White Christmas." 

If you've been to Times Square, you can imagine what it looks like this time of year at 11:30 in the morning.  Tourists are looking around.  Businesspeople are heading for an early lunch.  Holiday shoppers are doing their thing.  It's crowded.

None of these people would be the slightest bit phased to see a scene like the one that played out today on Law & Order.  In fact, a number of people apparently asked if it was a TV show or a movie being filmed.  But seeing it live is a little bit different.  The New York Times quoted a tourist from New Orleans who was staying at a nearby hotel as saying,
I’d never heard a gunshot before, but I knew it was a gunshot. Pow-pow-pow-pow — just like that. Then I heard a guy yell. Then sirens. I froze. My hair stood on end.

The fact of the matter is, we like crime stories and cop shows because they tie the horrible into a neat package.  They have a beginning, middle and end.  Everything is over in an hour, and we can experience what we are afraid of while knowing we're safe.  We do not expect, even in Times Square, to see a police officer shoot a suspect right in front of us.  The officer does not expect to be shot at when he rousts a suspect for a relatively minor offense, either.  And as much as this might make for a good story about some people's trip to New York, it probably is going to make a lot of people -- both natives and tourists, just a little more skittish and aware of their surroundings for the next few days.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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