Boulder 911, or How I Was Almost Caught in a Shootout

2016 had an interesting end for me. I was on my way to work on the morning of Friday the 30th, waiting to make a left turn from one main road in Boulder onto another. As I sat in the left turn lane, a police vehicle came screaming up the inbound traffic lanes to my left, zig-zagged through the intersection to get back into the lanes going his direction, and then vanished around a turn at the next intersection. Actual crime is almost a novelty in Boulder, but even so, it was early and my mind was already checked out for the holiday weekend, so I forgot about the cop even before I got the green arrow.

When I turned left, I got into the right lane and drove along, nearing a gas station on my passenger side. Just as I reached the entrance, that same cop came tearing down the opposing lanes once again, lights flashing and siren blaring, but this time, instead of driving past, he sucked me right into his dramatic morning. He pulled a hard turn directly in front of me, back end of his SUV swinging wide, and slammed to a stop perpendicular to the road, blocking both lanes going my direction. He jumped out of the car with an assault rifle and ran into the gas station lot. Just then, three other police cars screeched in from different directions and all the officers jumped out, weapons drawn. They were pointing them at a man on the ground in front of a van.

At this point, my adrenaline was pounding. It was just like being in a movie! A movie? I should film this, I thought! I pulled out my phone, surprised to find that my hands were shaking a little. I hit the record button but then realized that maybe I should call my partner to tell him what was going on. What if I got shot? Surely I would want to say goodbye and I love you. The gas pumps were obscuring my view, so for all I knew, there could have been someone else pointing a weapon in my direction. I stopped recording, slumped down in my seat slightly, and called my partner repeatedly, but he didn’t pick up. Then I looked around at all the other vehicles and the absurdity of the situation dawned on me. Why the hell were we all just sitting there rubbernecking? What a foolish thing to do. I’m sure several of my fellow motorists were actually videotaping the event, but I decided it was time to get out there.

I was the first car in line, stuck behind the cop car with a line of vehicles to my left. The only escape route was through the gas station lot. That didn’t seem like the best option. I also thought the police would probably not appreciate me honking my horn or getting out of my car to tap on my fellow motorists’ windows to ask them to move. All I could do was start edging left, as if I was going to drive my SUV right into that of the guy next to me. Fortunately, he got the hint and decided to make a U-turn as well to head back up to the street we had just turned from. Off we went, back into traffic, merging with the other commuters as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. And less than ten minutes later, I was booting up my computer, preparing to write a software manual.

What is the moral of the story? I’m not sure. Be nice to people because you don’t know how sideways their whole day might have gone before 9am? Boulder isn’t entirely the bubble we all pretend it to be? Only suckers go to work the week between Christmas and New Year’s? Always drive in the left lane? (Maybe events like this are why people here seem oblivious to the concept that the left lane is for passing and not for cruising…)

No, none of that. What I learned from that morning is that the Boulder police department has a recorder with bad grammar and a desire for a little bit of flare in his or her crime reporting. This is the incident report:

Dispatch aired a tone alert at approximately 8:45 a.m. at the Diamond Shamrock located at 1884 Folsom. Witnesses reported a man with a gun holding another man against a white van at the gas pumps. Officers arrived very quickly and both men were taken into custody.  When the dust settled we learned that the actual victim in the case was the man with the gun who was sufficiently afraid of the other man so he pulled the gun from inside of his van.  The man was causing a disturbance inside the store and the victim tried to assist the clerk by telling him to leave. Officers responded to three previous calls that morning after this man was reported to be trespassing, however no one was willing to press charges. When the victim left the store the man came running after him and prevented him from closing his door to get away.  Both the victim and witnesses say that the gun was pointed either at the ground or in the air and never at the man. As officers were arriving the victim placed the gun on top of the gas pump. The suspect was taken to jail on trespassing and menacing charges.

When the dust settled? I had to laugh out loud. Someone fancies him- or herself a detective novelist perhaps. Given that most other days this civil servant has nothing more to write than “Police responded to routine calls,” I think I can understand and appreciate the effort to tell a good story. After all, isn’t that what I tried to do here?

6 thoughts on “Boulder 911, or How I Was Almost Caught in a Shootout

  1. You’re in Colorado, right? Based on what I’ve seen in the movies, don’t crimes in that part of the country always involve dust? And doesn’t it eventually settle?

    Thanks for a good story. Now I’m going to try to sneak “the dust settles” into my next user guide.


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