Alright. So maybe my experience wouldn’t qualify as something you’d see on prime time television but for this girl from small town Ohio, it was a little intense. Go ahead and laugh.
Every day I leave our house about 50 minutes before the boys are due to get out of school because even though the school is literally one minute from our house, being that girl from small town Ohio, I can not parallel park. If I leave early enough, not only will I not have any problem parking but I’ll also get the best spot right in front of the entrance to the back of the school (where the boys come out). On this particular day, I got that coveted spot and was parked on the street playing some Candy Crush as I waited. It was around 2:00 so we still had 20 minutes before school was released which meant that the school yard was pretty much empty. Before I continue with the story let me explain how the school is set up. This is a NYC public school we’re talking about so there is no parking lot nor playground but instead just an old three story building in the middle of a corner lot surrounded by a concrete
jungle play yard where the kids get to play hand ball, soccer, tag, whatever, during recess. The entire area is enclosed by a chain link fence that is always open.
Back to the story. So as I was playing on my phone, I looked up as a man seemed to be walking towards my van. Once again, because I’m that girl from small town Ohio I immediately felt a little nervous but relaxed once I realized that our doors were locked (our doors lock automatically when we start the van and don’t unlock until the driver opens the door). I looked directly at the man who looked back at me as he continued on past the van. Just as he was approaching the next car he turned around and started back towards me and the way he came. He entered the school yard fence at which point I became extremely nervous since I could feel that something just wasn’t right. I made the mental note to pay close attention to every detail about him and didn’t take my eyes away. He was a younger man, probably early 20’s, wearing a black tee shirt tucked into black mesh shorts and brand new looking white sneakers. As I watched him continue to walk I started to panic in my mind as I thought, “He’s going to try to get into the school!” but knowing that the doors were locked and there were security guards inside I struggled with what I should do. I also struggled with the thought that he could very well just be picking someone up. There was one solo older woman (a child’s grandma I later discovered), standing in the school yard waiting in front of the first grade door. I watched as the man began to pick up his pace as he approached her, while in my mind I was still thinking he was heading for the door as opposed to the woman. As he walked in front of her, he snatched what she was holding from her hands (her cell phone) and sprinted around the corner of the school. At this point I thought I was going to vomit. I know that’s a little dramatic when the crime wasn’t even violent but I have this severe reaction anytime I see something negative like that. I didn’t know what to do either. The woman just kind of looked around as if to see if she were alone and then she too, walked around the building. I was concerned with where the man was headed to next (there were two more doors to the school around the corner he ran) but I was not about to get out of the van with a baby to investigate or try and stop him. Side note. I am terrified that one day I’m going to be caught by “What would you do” because I’m one of those people, who under most circumstances, wouldn’t do anything. It’s not because I don’t care about others, it’s just because I’m a scared, weak, little being. I texted Josh and told him what had happened (while dropping some choice words about how much I hate the city life) and stayed nice and safe in my locked van until the kids started exiting the building.
Upon getting out of the van, I saw the security guards along with the principal standing in the school yard. I overheard them discussing what had happened so I approached them and mentioned that, not only had I witnessed the entire thing, but I had also gotten a great look at the thief and could give a good description. The thing is, in New York, there are so many people so busy with their lives that a lot of things go unnoticed. A lot of people turn the other cheek when this kind of thing happens because it’s just not your business, so when I gave a full description of the man down to his approximate size and age along with what he was wearing and exactly what had happened, both the principal and the guard looked at me strangely and said, “Oh! So you actually saw the whole thing happen?” I tried to explain, without sounding like a complete weirdo, that the man had walked so closely to my van that it caught my attention so I watched as he strangely entered the school. With the looks on their faces, I was actually waiting for them to ask me if I was from around here. 🙂 The guard took my name and phone number and said he and the police would be in touch.
Two days later I received a call from a blocked number. I answered to hear a man with a gruff New York accent on the other line introducing himself as detective so and so with the NYPD. He asked me if I had given my account of the incident at the school and I said yes. He continued to ask if I had gotten a good look at the man and I said I had gotten a really good look as he walked past my van but I wasn’t sure if I could describe more than his clothes at this point. He then asked if he could come to my house to show me some mug shots to see if I could identify the man. Hesitantly, I said yes I could try. After hanging up with the detective, I called Josh to come home early from work because I was totally freaked out about a NYPD detective coming to my house while I was there by myself with all of the kids. Once again, small town Ohio girl. Feel free to laugh at me. I get it. I spent the next two hours trying as hard as I could to remember what the man’s face looked like but continued to draw a blank. I was absolutely going to refuse to identify anyone unless I was completely sure it was him, and at this point I didn’t think it was possible that I’d be able to be sure. About 20 minutes after Josh arrived home from work, two older, heavy set, New York detectives showed up at my door to discuss what had happened at the school. As we all stood, though I invited them to sit down, I once again had to give my version of what had happened followed by a description of the man. Afterwards, I had to read a disclaimer about what I was expected to do before looking at the photos of the lineup. I agreed to everything and then the detective placed six photos in front of me. Much to my surprise, my eyes went straight to the man whom I had watched commit the crime two days earlier. It’s funny how the human brain works. I had spent hours trying to recall any detail I could about the man’s face and came up empty handed time after time but as soon as I saw that picture I knew it was him.
I pointed him out and had to follow a procedure of exactly how I identified him. Basically, as I pointed him out, I had to reiterate what I had already told the detectives (where, what, how). I signed a paper saying that I was giving my word and had identified the man, who was just “number 3” on the paper, and then the detective told me that I had picked the right guy. The man had actually been busted committing a different crime the day before and had confessed to the cell phone theft as well, once he was in custody. Funny enough, the detective who was interrogating the guy didn’t even know about the cell phone theft but looked into it further after the guy admitted to it. He came across my name as the only witness and had to follow procedure with having me identify the man. It was comforting to know that not only had he been caught, but he had also admitted to his crime. The detective assured me that this meant that I was more than likely done with assisting the case and then made a joke about the fact that witnesses can never identify the criminal in cases when the criminal is still on the loose. He and the officer who had sat silently (aside from telling me that I have a big apartment) then shook my hand and left.
And that’s where my CSI NY experience ends. Hopefully I never come even that close to having another one.