11.30.2005

Officer Dillon Stewart, age 35

A good guy was gunned down in the streets of Brooklyn two nights ago. He was a cop doing his job, chasing a guy who turned out to be armed, dangerous, and really stupid. The stupid guy lived. Officer Stewart, father of two, husband, brother, son, didn't.

Seven cops have died in the line of duty since 9/11. I'm not sure why this story resonates with me so particularly but it was all I could do not to break down and sob when I offered condolences to the cops on the street I see here every day. I didn't know Officer Dillon Stewart. I don't know any cops really. But this one really hit home.

I love reading detective fiction and crime novels. People get killed in those books all the time; in fact, it's almost a requirement of the genre. Cops get killed in them too.

But I think that the reason I like reading crime novels is the same reason I'm so sad about Officer Dillon Stewart. Crime novels make sense of the carnage. There's always a reason. There's always a motivation. And there's always a sense of justice.

In this case, a guy who has been a loser all his sad life is alive, and Officer Dillon Stewart who from all the reports in the Times seems to have been one of those very good, very valiant, very special men this city has to offer is gone. There's no sense, or justice, or reason for that at all.

And no neat endings. No overarching narrative theme. Just a very bleak sense of the injustice in the real world.

28 comments:

Suzanne Rorhus said...

I feel your pain. Here in Battle Creek, MI, we recently had the first cop killing in the 105 year history of our police force. Needless to say, the city was devastated, and virtually shut down for his funeral. Amazing how badly one can feel at the death of a stranger - especially when that stranger was trying to protect the community by arresting a guy who was virtually a one-man crime wave.

Simonbun said...

And this is why we need fiction. So that we can keep on going in the senseless, often patternless real world.

The opening of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" (that lady has Stephen King whupped for horror!) reads: "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream."

I understand your feelings, Miss Snark. This sort of thing happens in a lot of different ways, and it sucks.

M. G. Tarquini said...

My husband did his residency at Lincoln in the South Bronx. The saying there was that the crackhead always lived, the little old lady caught in the crossfire never did. I'm sorry about Officer Stewart. There is no sense to the carnage. Ask any E.R. doc. It's a crap shoot.

Carter said...

Whenever I hear news like this, I hope the perpetrator tries to "escape" at some point. I know that's wrong of me, but it's one of the human foibles I allow myself to have.

I hope you will express to the officers you see how deeply sorry your Snarklings are about Officer Stewart.

Harry Connolly said...

Miss Snark,

Here is his entry on the Officer Down Memorial Page.

This is a website that lists, if not all, many of the law enforcement professionals who have been killed in the USA, many going back more than a hundred years. It's a sobering sight. It's so easy to write about a person being killed that it can be sobering to log onto the internet and see the face of a husband and father who had been shot to death only two days before.

MissWrite said...

My deepest sympathies to the Officer's family.

What you said about your reading is one of the very reasons I loathe reality tv. I don't read, watch movies, or television to see someone else's shitty life. I wanna escape. Sure, it may involve many of the same shitty circumstances, but with panache. There will be hidden agendas, exciting plots, or just plain silly humor. If I wanna watch a bunch of strangers fight over which bed they get, I'll let my kids invite their friends over for the night.

Not happening.

Dee said...

thank you for sharing your sorrow about Officer Dillon Stewart. It's good that he is recognized for the bravery which caused him his life. My sympathy go out to his family.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Trust me, the only way I can write mysteries is to make sure I have some sense of justice in them. I know real life isn't always like that, but at least in my writing, I can at least offer a little hope, a little escape. Yes, cops are human and make mistakes and screw up too, but they are one of our few hopes that maybe somebody will be on our side when the criminals come calling. Cop killers aren't just shooting a person, they're shooting a symbol of this thin veneer of civilization that our society has managed to attain.

Bernita said...

Officer down.
I have a constitutional affection for cops, rating them just a little lower than soldiers and just a little higher than firemen.
Bleak, indeed, and a kind of private rage.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I sorta' puts what's important in prospective. There are a lot of good people out there putting their lives on the line for us everyday....police officers, firefighters, and soldiers to name a few.

And we think that we have it tough!

I'm with carter, express my sympathy also!

Brady Westwater said...

Next time you see a police officer on the street - take the time to thank them for what they are doing. Let them know we care when they can still hear the words.

Sandra Ruttan said...

That's good advice Brady. We lost four RCMP officers months ago, not far from here, and I know some of the guys who had to go into the scene afterwards. They were crushed. These are the people who roll the dice every day on behalf of others and their sacrifice should not be forgotten. The death of this man is just tragic, senseless...sad.

Cornelia Read said...

I think you've put your finger on the main motivation for reading and writing crime novels, Miss Snark. I can't get my head around the amount of cruelty and carnage we humans are all capable of. What the hell's that ABOUT? Where the hell does it come from? How the hell do we stop DOING it?

Maybe fiction can't do anything to stem the tide of painful, thoughtless, horrific crap there is in the world, but I want to believe it can inspire us to try harder, and do better. Or at least offer solace when the ugly is too much with us.

Anonymous said...

In Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Novels, the cops speak often of the rule that all murders are for love or money. (I hope this brief excerpt from http://www.bbc.co.uk/endofstory/shortlist_story_pdfs/mcbain/love_or_money_ed_mcbain.pdf is fair use.)

He and Carella had each taken off their suit jackets, pulled down their ties, and rolled up their
sleeves. Together, they were sitting at Carella’s desk, going over the notes they’d made.
“Funny about her saying that love or money are the only things worth writing about,” Carella
said.
“Jane Austen, yeah,” Meyer said.
“Whoever she may be,” Parker said from his desk.
“I meant Helen McReady,” Carella said. “Because, you know, those are also the only two
motives for killing somebody. Love or money.”
“How about hate?” Parker said.
“Other side of the love coin,” Carella said.
Parker shrugged.
“So if we look at her three dinner companions…”
“The husband, the boyfriend, and the girlfriend,” Meyer said, nodding.
“I don’t see any money involved, do you?”
“Unless there’s a will we don’t yet know about.”
“How much do book reviewers earn, anyway?”
“I think they get paid in review copies.”
“Be serious.”
“I mean it. Which they then sell to used book dealers.”
“How about lunacy?” Parker yelled from his desk. “That’s another motive.”
“That’s not a motive, it’s a condition,” Meyer said.

Sonarbabe said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Officer Stewart and my sympathies and condolences go to first, his family and then friends.

I hope this little punk is proud of himself. I hope he feels big and bad, because if what I hear about cop-killers in prison is true, (and I can only pray that it is) then he won't have that feeling for long. It won't do anything to bring back Officer Stewart or help his family cope during this or any other holiday season, but it'll show that the old saying is true. You get what you send out--sometimes tenfold.

jackie said...

I lived in Brooklyn for five years - a revelation after a lifetime in the Boston suburbs and a brief stint in Cambridge. Within my first month working in downtown Brooklyn there were two murders within blocks of my office and apartment. But despite all the scary stuff the people/cops/ firemen/vagrants etc. were so richly colored, that I long to be back on Court Street. Seinfeld and Sex and the City barely scratch the surface.
Having a kid did me in, though. When the neighbors expressed relief that the midnight execution of a drug dealer at our favorite park was, thank God, a hit and not random, I knew it was time to leave. When my girl is safely tucked away in college I'll return to the land of the free-est and the home of the bravest.

Tribe said...

First, as somebody who works closely with cops for a living...whenever one of the guys in blue takes a hit, it hurts all over the country. Trust me, it does.

Second, though, you say: "Crime novels make sense of the carnage. There's always a reason. There's always a motivation. And there's always a sense of justice."

Try reading Jean-Patrick Manchette. He sort of turns all of what you said upside down.

Aurora said...

Something similarly tragic happened in Albuquerque lately. Thanksgiving night, two guys (related - brothers, maybe) were drinking in a bar. They'd had too much to drive safely so they did the right thing - they called a cab for a safe ride home.

The cab was t-boned by a drunk driver. Cabbie and both passengers were killed. The drunk and his passenger lived.

Sonarbabe said...

Aurora: That is the sadest and cruelest of all ironies.

Christa M. Miller said...

I don't know what to say. I am still healing from a loss of my own 2 months ago and still feel so acutely how senseless it all seems - even though I am religious, some days that just doesn't help.

My condolences, my heart, and my prayers go out to Officer Stewart's family, including his NYPD brothers and sisters. May he rest in peace.

Maya said...

Last night, a Fort Worth, Texas officer--Henry Nava--was shot in the face while serving a warrant.

Tonight, they downgraded the 39-year-old officer's condition to "grave" and said the family is having to make "tough decisions." Officer Nava had helped in the Hurricane Katrina effort and has a wife and young children.

Please pray for him.

Bernita said...

And people wonder why cops tend to drink a lot.
Yasmine,Bonnie thank you for saying what I feel.

islandwoman said...

I am sorry about Officer Stewart. When the good and the just go like that it shakes a community to its core. Recently, a prosecutor where I live was gunned down after arriving home late at night. Everyone just felt a huge sense of loss, like our hearts had been ripped out.
His killer has not yet been caught.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

I write crime fiction AND work in a police department. Some people think my day job gives me so much access but the fact of the matter is that I have a hard time asking the cops questions for a "mere story" when this is their life and it's a very serious business.

Suzanne Rorhus said...

Stephen, sometimes a "mere story" can be more than that. Our primary job as mystery writers is to entertain, but we have the opportunity to do more. The mystery writers I know all seem to have a strong sense of morality and outrage at evil. It is probably a job requirement. Your sensitivity to pestering cops for a story is valid. I will try to remember it when I am writing and researching.

lady t said...

My deepest sympathies to Officer Stewart's family and friends-my paternal
grandfather was an NYPD mounted officer and one of my uncles has retired from the force.

Fiction has been often used to try to bring order amidst chaos and sometimes,
you wish that real life had a better
scriptwriter.

Catja (green_knight) said...

Fiction can also help to bring cops closer to readers, show them as human beings, show their motivations, their dedication, their humanity.

Hands up - who, when seeing blue lights in the rearview mirror thinks 'catch whoever broke the laws'? No, our first impulse is 'did I do anything wrong? I hope I didn't, and if I did, I hope they didn't notice.' Human nature. All too often law enforcers are deemed to be enemies.

Fiction can help address that balance.

Anonymous said...

Here here, Miss Snark.