Recently, a man who was thought to be a gunman in a Beavercreek Walmart was shot down by police officers after reportedly refusing to drop what turned out to be a toy submachine gun.
The incident happened around 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday – right when my friend Brian and I were doing some shopping at the nearby Goodwill store.
We had just met at Starbucks for some coffee and a general critique of the interior decorating, and we had plans to take in a showing of “A Most Wanted Man,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the greatest actors of our time who passed away tragically earlier this year.
In between the coffee and the movie, we decided we needed to get some thrifting in; we were eyeing a massive stack of VHS tapes at Goodwill when the first ambulance went by.
I contemplated going after it, but I got distracted by some interesting mugs, and didn’t think another thought about it… until the second emergency vehicle went by.
Then the third.
When a police cruiser went hurtling down North Fairfield road tailing a fourth ambulance, I decided it was time to move.
“Let’s go see what’s going on,” I said.
Brian, who since my childhood has always brought me back to planet Earth when I get too excited, was uninterested.
“Come on,” I exlaimed, “where’s your sense of adventure?”
“I think I left it at home,” he replied glibly.
Suffice it to say, we ended up halfway down the Colonel Glenn Highway five minutes later. It seemed as though the emergency vehicle motorcade had disappeared into thin air.
We decided it would be best to call it quits and go see our movie.
On our way back to the theater, we passed Walmart, finally finding the six or seven – and counting – first responders.
In film and TV, red and blue lights and police tape give excitement.
In that real-life moment, I had no such feeling. Something tragic had just happened, and we were about to find out what it was.
We ventured into the parking lot to find small crowds of timid onlookers speculating amongst themselves as to what was going on.
The rumors ranged from bomb threats to triple homicides – and went everywhere in between.
“Please. I grew up in East Dayton,” one young lady at the scene said. “We had stuff like this happen all the time and there was never a reaction like this. I lived next door to a meth lab.”
She went on to relate several stories about dangerous crimes committed very close to her home – even some involving her – and how police involvement was generally very minimal.
She spoke as though being held hostage by a drug dealer was nothing more than part of the daily grind.
The amount of truth in her statements was irrelevant to me; I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what it would be like to step into the shoes of the victim – or even the perpetrator – in those moments of conflict.
Moments before the shots broke out, human life in that Walmart was normal and balanced – at least, as normal and balanced as human life can be. Then the man with the gun allegedly refused to put it down, and the police, not knowing it was a toy, shot him dead.
The tragedy is heartbreaking simply at face value, made worse by the fact that it just didn’t have to end the way it did; but the circumstances surrounding the climax of that night’s one-act drama did not leave room for a happy ending.
It’s a reminder of how fragile life is – however cliché that might sound.
This doesn’t mean we should be afraid of what might happen to us; it only gives us that much more of a reason to love those we have with the time we’ve been given, and step forward with the knowledge that life should be lived to the fullest, because we never know when ours might end.
David Wright is a content producer for the Wilmington News Journal. He can be reached at 937-382-2574 ext. 2514 or on Twitter @DavidWright528.