Since the incident in CO, there has been a lot of discussion amongst my friends and neighbors about whether or not the perpetrater showed any signs that would indicate this horrific tradegy was about to take place. From what was reported, he was slightly withdrawn and, unknown to family and friends, was buying a large quanity of ammunition off the internet. Essentially, there wasn't any clear signs of this impending doom besides abruptly dropping out of school. But for the sake of this post, lets just say that there were some slight signs this individual displayed indicating that he had deadly intentions (Withdrawn, unkept, signs of mild mental illness, some signs of hatred for groups of people, alot of talk of weapons). What do you do then? The most likely response is to report the behavior to authorities. But let's face it, there can be consequences for the person who reports suspicious activities. This can be anything from intimidation tactics to causing physical harm. You never know what a person is capable of. The fear of this prevents some people from stepping up and reporting the suspicious activities. Afterall, it's not like the movies where the police will be there watching your door to make sure your safe. The police will most likely tell you to get a restraining order, but that can only do so much. If I was single and saw such behavior I would be more inclined to report the activity. However, now that I am a Mom, I've realised that I would probably not be so heroic. I would probably choose to not get involved in an effort to draw attention to myself or my son. Cowardly? In a way, but it's also a form of self-preservation.
Last summer two boys started playing in the park located next to my townhouse. They live with their dad and whatever girlfriend he has at the time, just for two months and then they go home to their mom in California. Prior to having Gavin, I would spend a lot of my free time outdoors, hanging out on the back porch or taking my dog for a walk. The boys seemed to take a liking to my dog (and my dog is gaga over them) and would regularly come over to play with him outside. We quickly developed a friendship/mentor type relationship and the boys and I would talk about anything and everything: movies, games, school, what they want to do when they grow up, etc. They are great kids but I began to start seeing signs that maybe life at their dad's house wasn't all that great.
The first week that I met them, the boys asked me for some water because they had been playing outside for a long time and it was hot. I told them I didn't feel comfortable giving them anything without knowing their dad and that they should go home and get something to drink. They told me they get locked out of the house from 2pm to 6pm and were not allowed inside. At first, it just remind me of my mom telling us to go out and play so she could get work done around the house. No big deal. The boys seemed sad about my answer but let it go. The next day this happened again but this time they asked if they could use my bathroom. I didn't feel comfortable letting them into my house, so I told the boys, I'm sure your dad will let you in the house and chose to walk over with them so I could introduce myself. Afterall, I know I would not want my child hanging out with a stranger. Surprisingly, the door was really locked, so I knocked on the door and there was no answer. The boys knocked a couple more times and we waited. No answer. I still kept thinking maybe Dad is sleeping and couldn't hear the knocking so we went to my back porch and I got the boys each a cup of water. I was still felt uncomfortable letting them in my house so I told them about the pool house bathrooms they could use.
I started paying a little more attention to the boys activities, finding it odd that they were getting locked out of the house on a daily basis. I began to notice the boys were locked out of the house at all hours. Sometimes the boys would be locked out of the house until 9 and 10 at night. They are not allowed to come in the house during this time, not for water or the bathroom. They have been told to go to the bathroom outside. I asked them why and they told me it was because that is the time their dad has "grown-up time" with the girlfriend. A lot of definitions of "grown-up"time crossed my mind from appropriate to not-appropriate: cleaning, sleeping, sex, drugs, etc. No matter what "grown-up time" meant, it was starting to raise a red flag in my mind.
Rather abruptly, the kids stopped asking for water. I joked with them, "No water request today?" " Nope, dad put two bowls of water outside for us. I thought their choice of words was wrong and they meant their dad set out to thermoses of water but no, he really put two bowls of water out on the front porch like these kids were dogs.
About two weeks after I met the boys, I was out walking the dog when I the boys ran up to me to say hi. Their Dad was working on the family car. I would have thought he would have looked to see who the boys just ran up to but he didn't. I walked over to introduce myself, saying hi and he didn't even flinch. I thought he didn't hear me, so I repeated a "hello" and I didn't get a response. The boys grabbed my hand and asked if they could hold the dogs leash and go to the park so we walked away. I just kept thinking their dad's lack of interest was odd, but hey not everyone is a social butterfly like myself.
By mid-summer the boys started to feel comfortable enough to tell me that they were sad that their dad would never come out and play with them. They also started telling me how they have other half siblings and that their Dad's new girlfriend is pregnant. They talked about how Dad and girlfriend fought about money all the time (what couple doesn't) and they were afraid the new girlfriend was going to leave them alone with their dad. They seemed to like the latest girlfriend but you can tell the relationship between the Dad and the boys were not that great.
Sometimes our conversations got bizarre quick. The boys know everything there is about weapons. What each gun is, how to load them, if the bullet stays intact or breaks apart in fragments, different types of knives, explosives, etc. They told me they were allowed to watch a lot of violent movies, and were allowed to play a video game were they could shoot hookers. I got to say, the word "hooker" was not in my vocab at their age (8 and 6yrs old). Nobody in our extended family had guns other than for hunting purposes, so having this weapons discussion with such you kids also made me incredibly uncomfortable. At that point, I knew their Dad was a disabled military vet so, even thought I disagreed with it, I just thought maybe that this type of conversation was just common to growing up in a military household.
I was already pregnant by early august, and although I loved seeing the boys, I began not to go outside as much because the heat would get to me. The boys first began to bang on my windows to get me to come outside. I asked them to please knock on the front door but they said they couldn't because then their Dad would know that they were talking to me. I had know idea their Dad did not want the boys to hang out on the back porch with me. I told the boys how much I thought they were great kids and how I didn't mind them playing with cooper and talking to me but they needed to respect what their Dad said. The oldest boy got mad while the youngest left crying. I felt bad, but at that point the kids bizarre conversations and Dad's behavior when I went to introduce myself gave me the creeps. I would never want to go over any parents head, and especially not this guy's.
Within days, the boys began coming over again. I decided to try to reintroduce myself to their dad again. I got my dog and headed over with the boys. Having Cooper there seemed to loosen him up a bit. I just mentioned that I knew the boys were told to not talk to me and I respected his decision, complemented him on his boys and told him that a lot of the neighbor kids and I are going to miss them when they go back to their mom's at the end of the summer. His response was completely unlike the one I received when I first tried to introduce myself. He told me how much the boys talk about me all the time and how much they loved my dog, he just thought that the boys were bothering me. It was a nice normal conversation. I told him it wasn't a problem at all as long as they knock on my front door, they can come over and play with Cooper as much as they wanted. The kids seemed really excited that they could continue to come over.
Later on that afternoon, I heard crying outside my window. Crouched between the shrubs and my window was the oldest boy crying. I asked if he was okay and he told me they got whipped for telling me that they couldn't come over to see Cooper and I. My first reaction was to give him a hug and comfort him, but I also had a fear that if I continued to talk to him, his dad would whip him again. I thought about calling child protection service but I started to second guess whether or not that was the real reason dad hit him or if he was really getting punished for something else. All the other things going on flooded back to me to; the bizarre conversations about weapons and being locked out of the house for long periods of time, the water on the porch. Even if it was a strectch, they all had somewhat reasonable explanations. Dad is in the military so he knows a lot about weapons, dad is taking a nap and locks the kids out, they don't own plastic thermoses so they put out the bowls. I didn't see the boys for the rest of the summer after that day.
The boys came back in June looking a little bit taller and grown-up. Conflicting with the last conversation I had with the eldest boy, their dad came over a few weeks prior to their arrival to tell me the boys were coming back and they were excited to see me. This is only the second conversation I have had with this guy in two years. I told him that now that I had the baby, I couldn't walk the dog that much so the boys were more than welcome to stop over and wear the dog out. Again, a normal conversation.
At the beginning of this summer, the boys and I have fallen into the same routine. Once I get home from work, I bring the dog and the baby out onto the back porch so the dog can get a potty/play break while I feed and play with the baby. The boys will regularly join us and help me entertain the dog and the baby. Like before, the boys are constantly asking for water and telling me they are locked out of the house. I still don't feel comfortable letting them into my house (I have never asked their Dad permission) and have turned down their request to use my restroom, still telling them that they can use the pool bathrooms. I feel guilty everytime they ask.
The last few weeks the tempertatures have been hovering over the 100 degree mark. I thought the extreme heat would make their dad keep the kids indoors but they are still getting locked out of the house. They are no longer getting water to drink in the bowls. I wasn't really aware of all of this, because I was staying indoors, but my neighbor mentioned it to me one early morning. Her and her fiance were getting concerned but told me they were afraid to do something about it because this guy has a long criminal history and they didn't want to get involved. I suspected something wasn't right about this guy but I had no idea that this guy was as troubled as he is.
Their dad also has a new girlfriend that the boys are scared of. I was indoors and heard a woman swearing loudly. I went to my back sliding glass window to see what all the comotion was about only to see this skeleton-thin lady grab the boys by the arm and drag them into their townhouse. Both of the boys were screaming for her to let them go. I just froze. I know I should have said hey, what's going on...something. But I didn't.
At the end of June, a week before the oldest boys birthday, the oldest boy got a BB gun. I wasn't around that weekend because my parents were in town so I didn't witness him shooting at the trees, the houses, animals, etc. A few neighbors did see him though and reported him to the apartment complexes office. The following week the boys and I were again hanging out on the back porch and the boys mentioned the incident to me. I was surprised and not surprised that the oldest was allowed to have the gun, unsupervised, providing him with an opportunity to cause a lot of property damage. Then the boys told me that their dad thought I was the one who reported it and is the reason why the apartment complex is considering evicting them. I was honest and said I didn't agree with him having the bb gun unsupervised but wasn't around that day and did not report it. The boys then continued to tell me that their dad is really mad at me, he thinks I'm a lesbian and believes that all homosexuals should be killed. I was stunned and felt threatened. I tried to stay calm and just told the boys that I was not a lesbian and furthermore don't feel that just because your different then everyone else, you should be killed. I changed the subject and we continued to talk about this and that.
The following day, I saw the youngest boy hacking away at the trees around my house. I initially couldn't tell what was in his hand but when I said hello, he turned around and I could see that he had a knife. I asked him if his dad knew that he had the knife and he said his dad gave it to him for his birthday. He just turned 7. I was not only scared that this kid was going to hurt himself, but any other kid on the playground that day. I told him that he needed to put the knife away and that I didn't want to see him with it ever again. He went back to his house and didn't come back out.
On Saturday afternoon, Gavin, Cooper and I were hanging out on the porch when the boys came over and sat with us. The youngest played with the dog, along with one of the neighbor girls, while the oldest and I sang songs to make Gavin giggle and dance. I told him that I bet he is a good brother to his new baby brother and he told me that they are not allowed to see him. He then began to tell me that their dad believes the end of the world is coming and that the boys need to prepare for it. I just thought it was just crazy talk, until the boys started saying that their dad has been asking them what they want to do on the last day they are on earth. I was hoping there dad was just messing with them in some sick way but when the youngest boy chimed in that their dad has been training them on how to kill people, I became sick to my stomach. The boys were so nonchalant about it all like this is such a normal conversation for them. I told them the end of the world is not real and they don't need to prepare for it. I explained some people believe in it because some people, the Mayans and Nostradamus have predicted various dates when it will happen but it never does. Minutes afterwards, I told the boys I needed to go inside. I know in my heart that I cannot just let this go but it is clear this guy is crazy. My thoughts are moving a mile a minute. Do I try to do something for these kids and risk and Gavin and I's safety or do I stay far away from them?
On Sunday morning, I went for a walk with Gavin and the dog around 6 am. While I'm passing my car, I notice a red piece of paper hanging off of my windshield. It is a lewd handwritten drawing of a male body part and for a girl, I have big balls. It was childish but I still feel threatened. It was clearly written by an adult and since it was on red construction paper, it is easy to assume it came from a house with kids. I knew exactly were it came from. I debated all morning on whether I should let it go or get the authorities involved.
Still wanting to keep out of it, I decided to go to the apartment complex office when they opened at noon, to talk to the leasing agent. The minute I mentioned the boys, she began to ask what is going on with the family this time. I initially only told her about how their dad thinks I reported the bb gun incident and then showed her what was left on my car. She explained that the oldest boy was shooting at her apartment window and she was the one who reported it. She also said many of the parents in the area are afraid to let their kids outside because the boys have been highly aggressive to the other kids the last few weeks. She asked if it was okay that we get the cops involved. As we wait for the cops she starts telling me that this man nearly beat his ex-girlfriend to death and is out on probation for stealing the last girlfriends baby and tryied to cross state lines. They also suspected he is cooking meth in the house. I wish I had trusted my gut instinct and called the police and CPS last year. When the cops arrived we told them everything that we knew, about the kids, the end of the world talk, the guns, etc. Back up was called and they went to his house. We could see it all unfold from the office window. They knocked on the door and asked to come in but he wouldn't allow it. He stood out in the front yard with the officers, acting all sweet and innocent like he did with me. They talked to him for thirty minutes or so and then began to leave. One officer returned to the office and told us he definitely believed their is something going on in the house but, because we didn't say the right things, he can't do anything about it. He said that it sounds like this guy may have some form of PTSD which makes a lot of the military vets to do crazy things. He told me that he strongly encourages me and the leasing agent to call CPS. I asked if we could remain anonymous but he said he can't guarantee it. I told him I am really scared to get involved any further, I am a single mom and I don't want to put my family in harms way. He said nothing to make me feel better. He told me to apply for a temporary restraining order and call CPS. I don't understand why us calling the cops wouldn't be enough for them to do something about this.
As we were talking, the leasing agent noticed that the dad was running up to the office. They quickly pushed me into a side office to hide me. Thank god Gavin was sleeping and didn't make a peep. The dad kept playing innocent and said he wanted to know who called the police. He wanted their address, phone number and name so he could talk to them. The police officer refused the request. Then the dad started mumbling about the bb gun incident. The leasing agent bravely told him that she was the one who reported the incident. He got mad for a split second but must have remembered the cop was standing there and calmed down. He continued to fish the leasing agent and cop for info but eventually gave up and left. They kept me in the office for an hour longer. The cop gave both of us some pointers on how to protect ourselves and apologized for not being able to do more. He said he couldn't go into details but told me I should be concerned about the situation and be aware of my surroundings at all times. I feel like he threw me to the wolves. The leasing agent hid me in her car and drove to the opposite side of the complex and let me out, allowing me to walk to my apartment as if I was out already going for a stroll with Gavin. I been locked up in my house since then, fearful of what will happen if I step outside. I still haven't called CPS and am still terrified that if I get a restraining order he will know that it wasn't the apartment complex who called the cops. This is why people don't get involved when they see signs of a dangerous individual.