With a loud scream and four gunshots, the holiday weekend went from great to awful.
“Did we just watch someone die?” my roommate asked.
“Yes,” I said.
A man was shot just before 10:15 p.m. on Sunday. Peeping from between the blinds of my kitchen window, I had watched.
As he ran across the street toward my house, knife aimed outward at the police, I pulled away from the window before the gunshots started. I heard the sound of bullets over the sound of my own scream. Four shots total.
Once the gunshots stopped, I peeped out of the window once more to see the unmoving body lying on the street. Streams of blood flowed down into the gutter.
It didn’t take long for the Long Beach Fire Department to arrive. Police had handcuffed the immobile man by then and stood around the body.
Firefighters then proceeded to take life-saving measures, but it was obvious from the first gunshot that the man was dead.
I had never seen him before that night. I first saw him from my roommate’s bedroom window. From there, we had a clear view of Obispo, the street we live on in between Pacific Coast Highway and Anaheim Street.
He had been pacing in the middle of our street while a helicopter circled him overhead with a searchlight. At first, I had thought he was just a brave looky-loo.
Then my roommate said, “Maybe that’s the guy they’re looking for.”
“Oh, my God, what if that is him?” I asked.
She sounded nervous as she retracted her statement, “No, it can’t be.”
It was a little before 10 p.m. and my third roommate would be heading home from work soon. Were the streets blocked off, I wondered.
“Dude, I’m going to check the street to see if it’s open or not,” I said.
I headed to the front of the house with my roommate, where we could get a better view. I stepped out and stood at the gate. Turning to my roommate on the porch, I told her what I saw. A group of cops standing down the street from us, about 100 feet away. Across the street, a police car positioned in the alley. I could not see any police officers toward PCH.
The cops looked nervous seeing me at my gate. At this point, I couldn’t stop shaking and my heartbeat felt stuck in the roof.
My roommate and I headed back into the house. As I closed and locked the screen door behind me, I heard voices.
“What are they saying?” I whispered in the dark. We had turned off all of the lights in the house to prevent a glare on the windows because we wanted to see everything.
“Lie down on the ground?” my roommate repeated after hearing one of the voices.
“Jose, put down the knife!” I heard a voice yell, though I couldn’t see who said it.
“Someone has a knife,” I reported to my roommate.
“Is it him?” she asked me, referring to the man in the middle of the street.
“He’s the only person I see,” I told her.
We watched as the pacing displayed a knife with a black handle and a long, thin blade.
It looked cheap, like a kitchen knife from the 99¢ Store.
After holding the knife in the air, he disappeared behind a house across the street. Within seconds, two police officers positioned themselves in front of my kitchen window.
“They have guns,” I told my roommate as I noticed the glint of a silver gun in one of the officer’s hands. They were pointing the guns in the direction the man had run.
The officers positioned themselves in my driveway, next to our kitchen. The man reappeared in the middle of the street, still displaying his knife.
The officers requested at least once more for the man to put down his knife and lie on the ground. Instead, the man pointed the knife at the cops and ran at them.
I saw my roommate turn her head away from the window as I screamed and let go of the blinds.
I peeped back out of the window to confirm what I already knew.
“Did we just watch someone die?”
We were held in our house for questioning. Our third roommate had come home at about 10:30 p.m. She parked as close to the house as possible but was not allowed behind the yellow tape on our street. Our gate was taped off in red, and we were not allowed out.
“Detectives will be here to question you,” a police officer informed us through our screen door.
“When?” I asked, but he said nothing. That was at 11 p.m.
The detectives didn’t knock on our door until about 3 a.m. By that time, we were burnt out, exhausted from the excitement and wanted the night to be over with.
We were questioned separately by the detectives. I told them what I saw and answered their questions as plainly and honestly as I could.
Before the detectives left, we asked if our roommate could come home. They said “yes” and went to retrieve her from up the block. We waited anxiously for her to arrive.
The two detectives escorted her through the red tape, and we were happy to have her home. However, I wondered if that even meant she was now safe, considering there was a dead body in our driveway.
I’m grateful that the trauma did not overpower the exhaustion and I was able to find sleep. This morning my heart remains unsettled, and I can’t help but observe the people watching my house.
A memorial has already been built, with two American flags and some candles.
My roommate and I keep asking ourselves, “What happened? Whose fault is it? And why did he have to die?”