I moved from Normal Heights to La Mesa in 1999, mostly because I wanted a yard for my kids. But also because an old woman was attacked across the street from my house on East Mountain View Drive. (The story went that someone was clubbing and robbing seniors as they left the Vons or Rite Aid on Adams Avenue.) I stepped out my front door to go to work and saw her lying on the sidewalk. Blood oozed from the back of her head; the papery skin of her hands was torn. She was murmuring, but I couldn’t make out the words. Someone had already called an ambulance. Later, I heard that she died.
On the afternoon of October 1, says my eight-year-old daughter, “I was playing in my front yard with my tennis ball when I heard this bang, and it sounded like a gunshot. I told my mom about it, and she said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s probably just a car backfiring.’ Then I heard some ambulances and police cars. When my dad came home, he told me and my sister to go up the driveway and see what was going on. It was weird: we saw a bunch of police cars and then, like, tape and everything.”
A neighbor explained that a man had begun slashing the tires of a truck parked along Glen Street, and the owner of the truck had shot him and then gone into his house. “Maybe they were drunk from Oktoberfest,” suggested my 11-year-old.
That started the 8-year-old thinking. We had visited the El Cajon Oktoberfest the night before. “We saw this guy get pulled out of this place by the police.” (A big, loud guy, made bigger by his peaked felt hat; about eight officers helped him leave.) “Then we saw him talking to the police, and he said, ‘This random guy just pulled me out of the fucking bar, and I don’t even know why he did it. He did it roughly, and you guys pulled me out, too, and you were rough about it.’ But this guy was drunk. My brother bets me $100 that it’s not the same two guys, which I think is silly. Because it might be, and I might get $100. Okay, those are my thoughts.
“Right now, it’s 9:30, and the police are still there [across the street]. The guy was shot in the head, that’s what I know. But he hasn’t died. That’s funny, but yeah, that’s what I heard. It was really weird and hard for me, because I live right next to the street where it happened, and I always used to go to that house for Halloween. I don’t know, maybe I won’t this year.”
I had her record all that because I could see her mind was working the story, and I thought it might help to get it out. When she returned my phone, she hugged me, and I could feel her start to shake. She slept in our room that night. Two days later, the man died.