Modern day police blotters?
April 14, 2018 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Today while walking to my volunteer gig, I heard some blood-curdling screams coming out of an alley half a block ahead of me...

a second later, a early-30s white man in a business suit and holding a briefcase ran out clutching his neck and gasping for air. A woman ran across the street to help and I ended up calling 911. The man's face was white and he was limping. He was desperately gasping for air. As I talked to the dispatcher he began to quickly limp away, down the street. I tried to follow, along with the other bystander, yelling to him that we are trying to help and he should sit down. He kept going, as fast as he could, still gasping for air. In shock I relayed what was happening to the dispatcher. I finally saw a fire truck catch up to him a few blocks down, which was when I decided that I should go to my job. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the alley when I eventually passed it.

I'm obviously so shook up by this incident. The other bystander said he might have been mugged or shot. I saw no blood though. The look on his face is seared into my mind right now. Utter shock, horror, and pain.

Is there any way to find out what happened to him? Some gut feeling is telling me that if I know, I'll be able to put these intrusive thoughts to rest. All I can think of right now is I may have just seen someone actively dying and didn't do enough to help. :(

I'm in Chicago IL if that helps. This happened in Uptown. I already did a preliminary search on google but I know that there are police blotter type twitter accounts. I am not twitter-savvy enough to find them apparently. Any help would be much appreciated.
posted by eggs to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This happened to me once and I was able to call around and find the hospital or paramedics to get an update. This was just a year after 9/11 and I used to be a journalist (very briefly.) I knew how to keep calling and ask appropriately to get hints and answers. I don't remember now exactly what I did...

First is to call the nearest hospital and explain your interest. Next, call the two nearest fire stations (or better, stop in personally!) and ask if they remember the call and what happened.

You can and should call the nearest police precinct and tell them about the incident and demand (honestly) to provide a statement.

Memail with updates and I'll try to walk you through it if you hit snags. I totally get how you are feeling right now. Try this. See how it goes.
posted by jbenben at 9:42 PM on April 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you call the local police station they will probably tell you something, not details but hopefully enough to help you move forward. I was once on the scene of a car accident but didn't actually witness it (but heard, oh god, I know what you mean). Late that night I called the local police station because I couldn't sleep from intrusive thoughts and the Sargent was very kind, he couldn't say much but could tell me they were recovering ok. It really helped to hear that so I think your gut is telling you the truth. Good luck.
posted by kitten magic at 12:03 AM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you have a neighborhood newspaper (i.e., something more granular than the Tribune), they'll usually still have a police blotter section. These are usually weekly, community-interest papers, sometimes free. In Columbus, there's the Northwest Columbus News and Upper Arlington News. In Buffalo, there's the Clarence Bee. If you find your local paper like that, it could help answer questions.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:39 AM on April 15, 2018

All I can think of right now is I may have just seen someone actively dying and didn't do enough to help. :(

You say a fire truck caught up with him? There's nothing you could have done for him that the paramedics couldn't do, and better. Even if there weren't any paramedics on the truck, the firefighters would have radioed their exact location to dispatch and an ambulance would have been there shortly.

With respect, you did enough. You really did. I hope you feel good about it. If you call around to the hospitals, you won't get any information (at least I hope you won't; that would likely be a serious HIPPA violation, unless the man somehow told the hospital staff "Yeah, sure, give my health status information to any old stranger who calls asking for it.).

You may have to resign yourself to the fact that you might never find out what happened to this man. The police may be willing or able to tell you he's recovering, or they may not. But I think the fact that the fire truck caught up with him means that he got the medical care he needed. You did good.
posted by cooker girl at 6:11 AM on April 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

When something similar happened to me, I visited the firehouse that responded the next morning. The shift had already changed but the firefighters on duty told me when to return and who (paramedic) to ask for. That guy told me what he knew, possibly because he remembered me, and suggested I call the hospital spokesperson. She understood why I was inquiring--that I was a traumatized Good Samaritan-- and told me the victim had been transferred to Giant Renowned Hospital. At that point I stopped. NB: this predated HIPAA.
posted by carmicha at 6:13 AM on April 15, 2018

What jbenben said. You should be able to enter the address of the where this occurred to determine which police district office to call or visit. Explain that you would like to submit a witness statement if it is needed. Then ask them if it is possible to know if the victim is alright, because you feel really shaken up about the incident.

Stopping in personally is often the best way, and jbenben is 100% correct in that you may get more information from the fire department (because you know that they responded).
posted by jeanmari at 6:20 AM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is an facebook group in my area called chasers, where people who listen to the dispatch channels post updates about what is going on. They may have some information, or they may not. Often they only have what is on the insecure channels, but they will also get statements from the personnel involved "Looks like he's going to be okay," "We can't comment," "They were responding to a domestic violence case at the time," etc.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:34 AM on April 15, 2018

All I can think of right now is I may have just seen someone actively dying and didn't do enough to help.

You did exactly the right thing - you called 911 and stayed on the phone until the paramedics / firefighters actually physically found him. Even with the benefit of hindsight I don’t think there is anything you could have or should have done different.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:51 AM on April 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

You could try contacting the alderman's office (Cappleman, most likely). They may be aware of the incident, or have contacts at the relevant police precinct to share.

Uptown Update is the only local source I know of that would potentially report on that incident, but they typically only pick up stories that involve a shooting, a death, or a string of related incidents. You could always email them to see if they've heard anything, if you're striking out elsewhere.
posted by gueneverey at 11:05 AM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I checked a number of Chicago police/fire twitter feeds ranging from official accounts, union accounts, news outlets, and members of the public listening to EMS radio frequencies. I saw nothing like what you described.

I completely understand why you feel traumatized. Although your impression was that this man may have been mugged, he may have been the criminal! Perhaps the scream was his victim fighting back (punching in the throat?) and he was limping away from the crime scene. Maybe your presence actually helped the real victim. You never know. Take care of yourself.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:33 AM on April 15, 2018

So much happens in Chicago, it would be hard to find it the answer unless he died. Last year DNA info was the best source, haven't found one that replaces the murder timeline yet. In a week or two if a crime was reported it will show up on the clearmap crime report page for CPD.

He likely got checked out by medical professionals he's OK. That's what happens. It's amazing what people survive honestly, and he was walking, breathing and communicating when the fire department arrived. Those are all really good signs.

You did perfectly.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:17 PM on April 15, 2018

I agree - you could call around and tell them you found this man, you were the one who called 911, and you wanted to know if he was ok.

All I can think of right now is I may have just seen someone actively dying and didn't do enough to help. :(

You called 911. You stayed with him until you saw he was being tended to. You instantly may not have realized it was an emergency, but no one would. Sadly, a lot of people would've just kept walking to work. You did everything right and there was not possibly more you could do.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:27 PM on April 15, 2018

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