I don’t know anything about him except that he lived in Brooklyn Center and was shot in front of my house. No doubt he has a family and friends that are grieving for him right now. Maybe he was funny, or a good storyteller. Perhaps he was loving. I don’t know. I just know that he’s dead, too soon.
I was standing on my front steps when it happened. I was checking for mail in the mailbox. I was too early — it hadn’t been delivered yet.
There was a car on the street, and a man standing to the side of it, near the passenger side back door, which was open. I must have seen the car, and the man standing there as I was walking around the house to get my mail, but I don’t remember clearly. I wasn’t really looking until I heard the shot.
Was it a shot? I didn’t know. It was a loud noise. The car screeched away, with the back door still open, and the man sprinted across the street and disappeared between two houses.
Strange, I thought. Was that a gunshot? I couldn’t be sure. I began walking back around the house, and then stopped. I turned around, and came back to the front yard. A man with a utility belt was standing in front of the front gate, staring at the street, and at the place where the man disappeared across the street. He looked at me.
I unlocked the gate. Was that a gunshot? I asked. He said it was. We conversed about what we had seen. I remembered surprisingly little. I didn’t remember what color the car was, much less bothered to look at the license plate. I couldn’t remember what the man who ran away had been wearing.
There were men working on a roof across the street. We talked to them. Yes, it sounded like a such and such caliber. Should I call the police? Yes, they said.
I went back inside, and called 9-1-1. As I’m telling the person on the phone what had happened, I come outside again, look at the street. The woman on the phone asks me the race of the man that I saw. I can’t be sure, I say. I think I know, but what if I’m wrong? As I’m talking to her, another man walks toward the sidewalk across the street on the other side of the house from where the first man disappeared. He’s similar in build — could he be the same person? No, this man is wearing a suit. It couldn’t possibly be the same person.
I can’t do anything for the rest of the day. I talk to friends on the phone. I discuss the incident on Facebook. I find out that Sgt. William Palmer, the Public Information Officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, has tweeted that a man died of a gunshot wound at HCMC after being shot on my block.
That’s when I freak out. I suddenly become worried that I’m a witness, and that the killer will come back to get me. But of course there were many witnesses. What about the roofers, and man with the utility belt? They can’t kill us all.
Besides, that man didn’t see me, I don’t think. No doubt, his heart was racing — he was getting out of there. And after all, I didn’t see him very clearly either.
When the fear subsided, I grew angry at myself for making it all about me. How privileged I am, I thought. This horrible thing happened, and it was in front of my house. Poor me! What about the man who died? What about his family? And what about the man driving the car? And what about the man who ran away? Those people are in crisis. Those people’s lives are screwed up. I’m just going to keep on doing my thing and living my relatively undramatic life.
The next day I emailed Sgt. Palmer. I wanted to know the name of the victim. He told me the coroner hadn’t released the name yet. In the end, I simply waited for the Star Tribune to write about it. The article said very little, just the name. Ever since, I’ve been checking the obituaries every day, but there’s been nothing.
Yesterday, two cops visited my house. I showed them where I was when it happened, told them what I remembered. They asked if I thought I could identify a picture. I don’t know, I said. I don’t remember too clearly.
But they showed me pictures anyway. One I knew for sure wasn’t him — he was too fat. I looked at the other pictures, each time, peering into their eyes. I can’t be sure, I said after each one. I can’t be sure, I can’t be sure.
I find I want to say those old Catholic words I have heard so often. Rest in peace, Koley Juvar Banks. I hope you rest in peace. I hope your family finds some peace, too.