Evelyn Martinez and Rick McBride pulled into the gas station. They just got off from patrol at the six-two precinct which is located in Chicago's notorious Cliff Hill section . McBride in the passenger seat says: “I'll pay for the gas this time and I'm gonna go in and buy a bottle of water, do you want anything?
“”No thanks, I have water,” I said
”McBride gets out of the late-modeled, silver, Chevy Malibu and walks to the convenience store. He stops, frozen in his tracks. He slowly backs away from the store. He returns to the car with me in it and says to me nervously: “There is a robbery taking place right now. I saw a man pointing a gun at the clerk. Call it in Corporal.”
I called nine-one-one and identified my-self as a police officer. I told the dispatcher about the robbery taking place, gave the store's location and I hung up the phone. I exited my car and walked over to my partner who was standing next to the entrance door looking through the glass. We both put on our shields around our necks. At this time, another car pulled into the gas station. A man got out of his car and walked to the store.
“Police business, get off the property,” I commanded to the man.
The startled man, turned around, got back into his car and sped off.
“How do you want to handle this,” asked McBride. “Do we go in or wait for them to come out?” he continued
“Follow me,” I said as I burst through the entrance door, my gun drawn.
“Drop the gun mister... police,” I yelled.
The man with the gun turned and said: “Oh no, a fucking woman, spic cop.”
He fired once...maybe out of surprise and fear. The shot missed everyone. The round hit the back wall high.
My partner and I were both in a firing stance when the perpetrator fired his round. I then emptied my nine mil-meter into his chest.
I had killed a man and I felt terrible. The stress that I was feeling was unbearable. I felt sick. My mind was squeezing the inside of my brain. No-body understands the fear that I felt while I was in that store confronting that armed robber. It turns out, the armed robber who was Black, and in his thirties, had an accomplice. The accomplice was a white woman who was hiding in the back of the store. She happens to be his girlfriend and to make matters worse, they had a three year old child together. The child was in the car while the parents robbed the store. My actions have created a widow and a fatherless child.
While the medical examiner was examining the body, two officers from internal affairs walked over to me. Both were white men in their forties.
“Officer Martinez, where was the perp aiming his gun before you killed him,” asked the shorter officer.
With a tremor in my voice, I answered: “I am so shaken up, please can we do this back at the precinct?”
“Listen officer Martinez, you just killed a man, and the press outside and the neighborhood residents will want to know the answer to that question. The crowd outside is already “itching” for a reason to riot and loot,” said the taller, tanned cop.
I looked outside the store and I saw a crowd of about fifty people standing around; looking agitated. It was early August and the city was sweltering. Tensions were high.
“Didn't you look at the security camera footage yet,” I asked.
“We did and from the footage, which by the way is fuzzy, shows the perp with his weapon down at his side for most of the time. It's only after you crouch into your firing stance does the perp shoot high,” replied the shorter cop.
Just then Captain Riker approached and said: “Enough... officer Martinez has been through hell.
Let's rap this up. I am sending her home for a well deserved rest. We'll continue this in two days in my office.”
“The hell we will! I need to interview officer Martinez right now for my report or else I will get my ass chewed out by my commanding officer,” said the shorter officer as he put another piece of chewing gum into his mouth.
“Officer Martinez, as your commanding officer, I am giving you a direct order to vacate these premises and go home. You, officer Reynolds, take your partner and interview Martinez's partner, officer McBride.
Both internal officers turned and walked to where officer McBride was standing. Officer Reynolds, the shorter cop with a wad of gum in his mouth mumbled: “Bitch” under his breath as he walked away from Martinez and Captain Riker.
Just then, a bottle hit the storefront glass. Everyone in the store turned and looked.
In a command voice Captain Riker yelled out: “Let's rap this up and get out of here. We don't want a riot on our hands; we have enough problems in this Cliff Hill neighborhood.
The next day I called out sick. I was crying all night and the stress was always increasing in my mind. It's a hard sickness to describe. Maybe I have PTSD from the shooting.
I live in a nice stable and integrated neighborhood called Branford Hills, located in a Chicago suburb. My husband, who was also Hispanic, divorced me two years ago. He said my personality had changed since I joined the police department. He wasn't the only one who had told me my personality had changed. My mother Maria had also told me that I had changed since joining the force and she recommended that I resign. I am a police offer for six years. At times I loved the job; I loved the camaraderie, and at times I hated the job and felt like resigning. I had a four year college degree in education so I could easily get a job as a teacher in a small town. I didn't want to work or live in Chicago because the city just had too many problems. Plus I had learned from my experience as a police officer dealing with the Chicago Board of Education that the Board was very political.
Just then my cell phone rang.
“Hola mama, como estas?” I said.
“I am doing well hija and how are you mi amor?” I saw you on the news last night. That must have been a terrible experience, said her mom Maria.
“I took a day off from work. I was really shaken up. You want to know something mama?
“Diga me mi amor.”
“I don't know if I can go back to work. I mean, I haven't been feeling right in my mind for a long time. This job can really suck at times.
“Evelyn, you are a buena oficial de policia, but you have that college degree. You can do anything with that. Teach, like you always wanted,” said her mom
Just then Evelyn started crying to her mom.
“Mama, do you know mi companera Rick McBride? Well, he has been exposed to much trauma on the job but he is just not affected by it, “ Evelyn said as she sobbed between words.
“Eschucha me Evelyn, yo voy a ir en veinte minutos. When I come over I will cook you a nice meal, maybe pollo con arroz. OK?” said a worried mom. “Te quiero,” she added
“OK mama. Ven rapido. Te quiero tambien.”
A few days later, McBride and my self were in our patrol car, chatting away, with McBride driving. We were just talking about police business and especially the fatal shooting in the gas station.
McBride seemed as chipper as always. The fatal shooting in the gas station did not seem to faze him in the least.
“Do you want to get an ice cream or or a shake?” asked McBride in his jubilant mood.
“I guess so,” I replied very sadly.
“Whats the matter? You seem down lately.
“This job is getting me down and that shooting at the gas station, well, that was the “straw that broke the camel's back.” I just can't take it much longer,” I said with a tear rolling down my cheek.
I wiped the tear away promptly for I did not want McBride to see me cry. Being a police officer meant keeping a stiff upper lip. No crying. Be a man.
Just then we got a call for a domestic dispute at 358 Jeffrey Street. I put on the siren and lights and McBride raced towards the address. The location was about ten minutes away.
We pulled up to the building which was part of a “projects” complex. The large gray sign out front said The Jeffrey Street Gardens. These so called “gardens” were in the heart of the Clifford Hills area. There was graffiti everywhere; most of it in blue. The blue graffiti indicated that these buildings were the turf of the Crips; a ruthless street gang. There was a burnt car parked in the street out front also with blue graffiti written on it.
These buildings were made up of ninety-five percent African American. Many of the households were run by single moms. Many of the fathers were either dead, homeless, or in jail. The drug and alcohol addiction rate was very high and the crime rate in these projects was astronomical. The building was ten stories high with an elevator. The dispute was located on the ninth floor.
While we were entering the building we saw some elderly African American woman sitting on the bench in front of the building and they smiled and waved at us as we entered. The one wearing the bonnet said to us: “Officer, there is a bunch of hoodlums smoking pot in the hallway.
We walked into the building and pressed the elevator request button. As we waited for the elevator, we smelled pot coming from the stairwell. As we opened the hallway door we saw two young men smoking a “joint” while sitting on the stairs.
“COPS! RUN!,” yelled the skinny youth with the braided hair.
They both ran down the stairs towards the basement.
“STOP!,” I commanded.
They continued down the stairs. My partner was about to give chase but I stopped him and told him: “It would only be a summons for smoking pot.”
We went back out to the lobby and continued waiting for the elevator. Eventually the slow decrepit elevator arrived. We entered and pushed the number nine button. We we reached the ninth floor and the elevator door opened, we heard a scream coming from apartment 9D. We walked over to the door and listened. We heard nothing for a while, than a glass breaking.
SMASH went the sound of the glass. I banged on the door and announced us as police officers.
“What do we do Martinez,” asked a puzzled McBride.
“Keep banging on the door...its all that we can do.”
McBride kept banging on the door, then all of a sudden we heard a woman cry out for help: “Help me...he's trying to kill me. Help! Help!”
“Break open the door,” I commanded.
McBride stepped back, then with a swift and powerful kick at the door, he brought it down.
Stealthily we proceeded through the apartment. Off to our left we passed a bedroom. We looked in and saw an elderly woman, sitting on a walker with her shirt off and in her diaper. Her breasts sagged as did her wrinkled skin. She looked like she was in a daze; dementia maybe. The room was littered with soiled diapers and other garbage. The stench of urine and feces was overwhelming. We continued on through the apartment. We heard a commotion from the other end of the apartment so we walked towards the commotion.
When we reached the kitchen we saw a male on top of a female; he was pinning her down with his hand over her mouth and nose. She couldn't breath or speak. There was a knife near the man and blood on her as well as on him.
“ Get off her...NOW!” I commanded.
“NOW,” yelled McBride.
The man, who was African American, was intoxicated. He picked up the knife that was on the floor nearby and lunged at McBride. The knife cut into his thigh and blood started gushing out of the wound. I kicked the knife out of the mans hand, took out my taser and fired. The man went down and convulsed, then I took my handcuffs out and cuffed him.
I immediately called the dispatcher on my walkie-talkie and told them we had an officer down.
Then I searched the kitchen for some rags so I could make a tourniquet. I found some and put a tourniquet on McBride's wound.
McBride was in a lot of pain but he was his usual happy self. I couldn't understand it; here I was a nervous wreck, depressed, suffering from PTSD, ready to take my own life and McBride just laid there on the kitchen floor with a pillow under his head and smiled and made jokes This job just made no sense to me; I was ready to cry.
The next week I went to see the police psychiatrist, Dr. Steinman. He was about fifty years old with a full head of gray hair, he wore round wire rimmed glasses and he sported a gray goatee.
“Come in Evelyn, so glad to meet you. Can I get you a glass of water?” he asked.
“No thanks doctor, I'm not thirsty.
“So tell me, why are you here today?”
I didn't know how to begin and I wasn't sure if I should tell the doctor of my thoughts of taking my own life. I decided right there in his wood paneled office not to tell him. If word got back to my Captain or my fellow police officers I would be stigmatized.
“Doctor Steinman, I have been crying a lot lately, and I feel sad all the time. The stress is really playing havoc with my mind. I just haven't been my-self lately,” I revealed to him.
“Weren't you just involved in a fatal shooting. How do you feel about that?”
“Internal affairs have been questioning me about the shooting. One of the internal affairs officers even suggested to me and my captain that maybe it wasn't necessary to kill the perpetrator,” I said while holding back the tears.
“Evelyn, you were just involved in serious trauma and it is normal for you to have these feelings and emotions. In time they will disappear.”
“Dr. Steinman, I have a question for you. My partner Rick McBride has been exposed to just as much trauma as me and it doesn't seem to faze him. He is always happy and joking around. Why is this?”
“Everyone reacts to trauma and stress differently. I'm sorry I don't have a better answer for you dear.”
The doctor and myself chatted for another fifteen minutes. I finally cried to him and I did take that glass of water after-all but I did feel better getting almost everything off my chest.
The next day, McBride and I were assigned to a demonstration detail. There were demonstrators in front of our precinct protesting the shooting of the armed robber of the gas station that happened a few weeks back.. The robbers name was Daren James and he had an extensive criminal record. There were only about fifty demonstrators, but they were loud and on the verge of becoming violent. The demonstrators were mostly young men, some black, some white; many of them bigger and stronger than us. There were twenty officers in our platoon; with seven woman officers part of our group. Many of the female officers were small rookies, just out of the academy. We were preventing the demonstrators from getting inside the precinct. We were lined up in a phalanx, in riot gear, with our batons held in both hands ready for trouble. The demonstrators were a fearsome group, and thanks to social media, growing in number.
I was scared and the depression was coming back again. I was fine when I left Dr. Steinman's office, and I was fine until I heard that I was a part of the demonstration detail.
McBride stood next to me with a confidant smile on his face. His leg had healed up nicely and he insisted that he wanted to go back to work. If I was him I would've milked that stabbing injury for all it was worth and taken as many days off as possible.
“How are you feeling Corporal Martinez,” asked McBride through his face shield while simultaneously keeping a close eye on the demonstrators.
“Can't wait for this to be over,” I replied.
Just then a bottle landed in front of McBride's feet.
“Boy! That was close,” he said.
The crowd was on the verge of rioting. Some of them had bricks and bottles in their hands.
Many of them had cell-phones videoing the demonstration and the police. Just then a CBS news van pulled up and a reporter and camera man got out.
The demonstrators were only a few feet away from the police, standing behind blue barricades. One of the demonstrators, a burly middle-aged woman with dreads spat on me and was cursing out my mother.
“You spic mother-fucker. You pig piece of shit, get out of my neighborhood,”she cried.
I don't think she realized that it was me who shot and killed Daren James in that gas station.
After she spit on me, I became enraged. It was bad enough that I wasn't feeling good at this time but to be spit at and cursed. Well, I could stand no more. As if in slow motion I picked up my baton and hit the burly woman on the shoulder.
At that very moment, I had made a very big decision in my life. Tonight, after all this bull-shit was over, I was going to go home and write a letter.
In about twenty minutes reinforcements had arrived with the tear gas, and later on that evening a strong storm arrived. With the tear gas and the storm, the crowd dispersed. We got lucky, it could have been worse, much, much worse. The riots could have spread to other parts of the city or to other parts of the country.
I felt sick. I was sick of the job. I was sick of the police union. I was sick of my Captain. I was sick of Internal Affairs, but most of all I was sick of dealing with the people of Clifford Hills I just wanted to go home and write that letter.
Instead of going home to write that letter I decided that I would go visit my mother. She was my best friend. I always felt comforted by her. My dad wasn't around; he had died when I was a teenager. He had died of lung cancer because he was a heavy smoker. I called my mom to let her know that I would be over.
I brought my iPad with me to my mom's house because I was determined to write that letter.
When I arrived, I greeted her at the door: Hola mama. Como estas?”
Muy bien hija,” answered her mom. “And how was your day mi amor? I saw the demonstrations by your police house this afternoon on the news,” her mom continued.
“Mom...should I stay with this job. I mean I am not happy...really not happy. My partner McBride seems to thrive on this stress, but me...it's not for me mama. All I do all day is feel sad and cry. This is no life.”
I opened my iPad and opened Word to a new file. I began to type:
Dear Doctor Steinman: This letter is to inform you...
Just then I got a notification that I had received an email from my partner McBride. It was a long email but the gist of it was serious. He said in the letter that he was hurting mentally. He wrote that he was depressed and not feeling right in his head. He said he did not want to live anymore. That's all I read. I have never received anything like this from McBride before.
“Mama, me voy. My partner is in trouble. I will explain later, I yelled to my mom as I exited the house.
In my car I called McBride; he didn't answer the phone. I decided to go over to his house. Like me, McBride lived in Branford Hills; as did many cops. I jumped in my Chevy and “hauled ass.” I took the back streets; it was faster. In ten minutes I was there. Like many cops on the force, McBride was divorced and he lived alone. He had a small dog which he mentioned in his emailed letter to me. The dogs name was Jasmine and in his letter to me he asked me to take care of the dog when he was gone. He also said in the email that his dog was very old, had cancer and would not live long, plus the dog was nearly blind.
When I arrived at his house; a small colonial house tucked away on a cul de sac, I called him again. There was no answer. So I banged on the door and waited a minute; no answer. I went around to the back of his house and saw that his car was parked in front of the garage. I was alarmed and terrified all at the same time. I tried banging on the back door; again no answer. I then tried to open the kitchen window. The window slid up. I was in luck. I crawled through the window and slid to the floor. The kitchen was filthy: dirty dishes in the sink and on the kitchen table, and garbage overflowing at the waste pail. I peeked through the kitchen door into the living room. There was McBride, sitting in his brown, leather recliner, sleeping. There was a half empty bottle of whiskey, and a bottle of prescription pills on the lamp stand beside him. Also on the lamp stand was his service weapon; a nine millimeter.
All of a sudden Jasmine started barking, she was upstairs, probably locked in a room. McBride woke up. His eyes were bloodshot and it seemed he was having a hard time keeping them open.
“Well well, if it isn't Evelyn, my partner. So glad to see you,” he said while picking up his service weapon.
He never called me by my first name. I decided to use his first name as well.
“Rick, I got your email; whats going on buddy?”
I've decided to end it Evelyn. I just can't take it anymore. Between the stress of the job and the stress of taking care of a dying dog, this life has taken a turn for the worse,” said a drunken McBride.
“Do you want to know a secret Rick? I had thoughts of taking my own life as well. But the visit to Dr. Steinman really put things in perspective. I have hope now and my life can go on,” I said while inching closer.
“Stay back Evelyn. “
McBride picked up the whiskey bottle and took a long swallow from it.
“The way I see it Evelyn, the people we are paid to protect hate us. We put our lives on the line trying to put all the low-lives, drug dealers, rapists, gangsters and thieves in jail...locked away from society, but the people of this neighborhood don't appreciate it. They spit on us, they curse us, they throw bottles at us; they just can't stand us and the judges let these criminals out of jail early; and our union and captain offer no help. I am so sorry Evelyn you had to see this”
McBride put his weapon in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
After McBride's suicide I was really shaken up. The depression came back worse than ever. I couldn't focus, my mind wasn't right. I even had thoughts of “offing” my-self as well. But I would not kill my-self. I decided to take a week off from work without pay since I didn't have any more sick days in the “bank.”
As I have been planning for a long time, I thought that this would be an ideal time to go over to my mom's place and write that important letter.
So I went to my mom's place with my iPad sat down at the desk located in the living room.
“Que quieres comer hija? I have some leftover beef stew that really came out delicious,” said her mom Maria.
“Si mama. I'll have some,” replied Evelyn
So I began to write:
Dear Dr. Steinman:
This letter is to inform you of my decision to resign from the Chicago Police Department, effectively immediately.
There is a simple reason why I am resigning. Personality change. My friends and family have told me that since I have become a police officer, my behavior, and attitude towards others have changed. To be honest with you, I feel different since I became a cop. I am always depressed, angry and irritable and most important, I've been having thoughts of taking my own life.
The suicide of my partner and dear friend, Rick McBride, has ravaged me. I can't sleep since the image of him blowing his brains out in front of me is always with me. The mental health professional that I recently saw on my own has prescribed two anti- depressants for me. I hope they work.
Another reason that I am resigning is because of the animosity and hate that I feel from the members of the community that I swore to serve and protect.
Right before he killed himself, McBride was try ing to explain to me about the hate the community of Cliff Hill felt towards him. I do not want to end up like my partner.
I will give a copy of this letter to my commanding officer Captain Riker.
I thank you for all the help you have given me and please wish me luck in my new teaching career.
“Mama, tengo hambre. Is the stew ready?”