The other day I was headed to work in the predawn darkness as usual.
It wasn’t anything special for me and it’s normal to see one of Altus’ finest patrolling the streets.
Usually we just exchange a nod and a wave as we pass each other.
But this morning something was different.
I could see four police cars with emergency lights flashing, blocking off an intersection on Hudson Street, just a couple blocks from our office.
I considered walking up and introducing myself. As a member of the media we get to and are even required to be a little nosy.
But I thought better of approaching a group of serious law enforcement officers as they were performing their important duties of the day as I was wearing black trousers and a black coat in the dark.
I didn’t know if they were responding to a robbery at a nearby bank, if there was a careful search underway for drugs or stolen property or maybe something very tragic happened like a death or injury.
Often we have hungry people who are fed at local churches and volunteer organizations, but it’s usually doesn’t attract a lot of attention even when they arrive before dawn to get to the head of the line.
Obviously, this was a little different than usual.
I knew from my military experience that it’s important to gather all the clues before trying to piece together a puzzle. As a former intelligence analyst, I can understand how one key bit of information might tell the story.
I also knew as a hunter that you don’t invite someone into your “honey hole,” or favorite hunting spot, who doesn’t understand how to keep the area pristine.
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has a skit about bringing his wife along hunting. She shows up in a fancy outfit, talking loudly and wearing enough perfume to scare away every animal in the county.
He describes the banter between them before he finally spots a deer. As he sights in to take his shot, she yells “run, Bambi, run.” To which the crowd listening to his monologue erupts in laughter.
But this was no laughing matter.
While that is a humorous take on one situation, it’s very easy for the unindoctrinated to contaminate and otherwise destroy
key evidence an investigator might need to solve a case.
So I thought that I’d just leave the lawmen alone to do their jobs for a while and give them a call later.
As it turns out, the situation was very serious.
Later Police Chief Tim Murphy had the grim task of telling us that there was an apparent homicide and the victim suffered
multiple gunshot wounds.
So, I was glad that I decided to wait to talk to these officers.
I have been around some death before, but not an instance in which the circumstances and the assailant were largely
unknown. The situation highlights the nature of their business — underpaid, overworked and often under appreciated.
I am fortunate to be approved to attend an upcoming citizen police academy class during which we will meet the officers,
learn how the department is organized and get an appreciation of their duties.
Some of these tasks are extremely difficult, serious and dangerous.
My mind drifted back to the officer who called me when my father passed away.
I will keep the family and friends of the deceased in my prayers.
Reach Eric Steinkopff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.