Our morning walk in the historic district of Savannah started quietly enough. Jones Street, with its fine collection of 19th Century houses and gardens was very enjoyable. Feeling the need for caffeine, we turned north toward downtown and a coffee shop. About a block from Broughton Street, this banner stopped us in our tracks. This is the point where our walk morphed from tranquil to exciting.
Savannah Police Officers and cruisers with flashing lights were all over the place. Roads were blocked, and a gaggle of gawkers milled about. As to exactly what had just happened, the fog hasn’t fully cleared. But the short story is that a person with a gun ran out of Starbucks, took a shot (or shots) at a police officer, and then ran off down the street past his Jag (parked askew, with a few bullet holes in the windshield). The gunman then bolted into the Olde Pink House Restaurant, startling the employees, who wisely ran outside. A couple of hours later, with the help of SWAT, the police managed to safely capture the gunman. Luckily, no one was hurt.
At this point, you’re probably wondering if this is just a post on a news story. Well it isn’t. It’s about the people involved and the interesting reactions of the onlookers.
By the time we arrived, the Police Department had pulled out all the stops. We’re talking full-on, wall-to-wall law enforcement. In addition to a huge contingent of normal policemen, a K9 unit, the Fire Department, Homeland Security (no joke), and a camo-clad sniper were on hand. And for some unknown reason, the Bomb Squad was also on the scene. I’m sure that the presence of all these units was prudent, and in addition to helping make the “collar,” it was fantastic fodder for the gawkers.
In addition to the CNN helicopter circling overhead, every news station within scanner range was on the scene.
As the events unfolded, we noticed a change in the crowd of onlookers, the sudden appearance of the “Camaraderie of Curiosity”. A small, shy college student became a celebrity at the middle of a circle of strangers because he saw the actual guy running. We chatted with a funny and excited British couple who will forever think that all Americans really are gun-totin’ cowboys, and the streets here are like Shoot Out at the OK Corral. And believe me, we were just as involved as all the others, chitchatting with strangers to pass along what we knew, and eavesdropping for tidbits of information.
Of course, these human reactions aren’t necessarily good or bad, just interesting to observe. It certainly made for an exciting walk. And we thought we left this kind of thing behind with the riots in Athens.