Tag Archives: police

Ending 2012 with firefighters on my mind

Mike Chiapperini

Lt. Michael Chiapperini

I’ve spent the last two days watching funerals on TV. West Webster Firefighters Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were laid to rest and their services were aired live on one of our local news channels. (You can read more about the events that led to their deaths in this post.)

The services were so different. Chiapperini was married with children, and his funeral service focused on his family and on his 25 years with the West Webster Volunteer Fire Department and his 19 years with the Webster Police Department. The first hour was spent with first responders filing past his casket.

Tomasz Kaczowka

Tomasz Kaczowka

Kaczowka was just 19 years old, only a year out of high school; his funeral service was much more religious in nature, focusing on his committment to his Polish- American heritage and his strong ties to his church. The first hour of his service was a traditional Catholic mass.

In both cases, thousands and thousands of first responders from across the U.S. and Canada stood in formation outside the church or school where the services where held. Appropriate, as the two died together in the line of duty on the morning of Christmas Eve when a madman started a fire to lure first responders to the scene, and then gunned them down.

They died together, mentor and mentee.

Different funeral services, yes, but, like their lives, together they seemed to perfectly bookend the life of a first responder. Chapparini was the more experienced public servant, leaving behind a long legacy of public service and in the dozens of young people he’s mentored over his lifetime – one of them being Kaczowka. Kaczowka was in the spring of that call to a lifetime of service. That lifetime, though shorter in years, leaves a lasting impact that will be felt for decades through lives of other firefighters and coworkers who knew him.

On this last day of 2012, my original plan was to look back on the year and recap the positive changes I’ve made in my life and the obvious progress towards regaining my sense of self.

In other words: me, me, me, me.

But the events of the last week have left me pondering less about myself and more about the nature of service and community. Continue reading

I muse about the tragedy in Webster, NY

west webster patch

Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, tragedy visited the small town of Webster, NY, when a madman set fire to a house and a car, luring first responders to the scene and then gunning them down in cold blood. What ensued were hours of confusion and chaos as SWAT teams descended on the small spit of land, a two lane road bordered on one side by Irondequoit Bay and the other by Lake Ontario, chasing the gunman, evacuating neighbors, and retrieving the bodies of shooting victims. Firefighters, unable to enter the area to fight the blaze, could only watch from a distance as seven houses burned to the ground and their commrades lay injured or dead.

West Webster volunteer firefighters Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were shot to death and John Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino were seriously injured by gunfire as they arrived on the scene. Jon Ritter, a full time officer with the Greece, NY police, was on his way to work; seeing the fire trucks he followed to offer assistance and was injured by shrapnel when gunfire hit his car.

This happened almost in my backyard, figuratively speaking. Webster, NY is a few miles from my house on the east side of Rochester, NY. My daughter went to Christian high school in Webster for three years; I often walk the beaches to take pictures where this event happened. Webster is part of the larger community of the city of Rochester. It’s a small town just outside of the city, but we’re all neighbors.

When things like this happen in other places, the national news media always reports that “it’s a small town where almost everyone knows someone who was affected.” But you never really understand what that means until it happens in your town.

Yes, I know someone affected. Several someones, in fact. (Click here to continue reading on my blog at Patheos.com)

Rochester NY woman arrested after video taping traffic stop (video)

On his radio show this morning, Glenn Beck highlighted a Rochester, NY news story about a woman named Emily Good who was arrested by police while videotaping a traffic stop.

Beck made a big deal about the story because he claims it points to the police taking away the rights of citizens. But his show producer, Stu, was on the side of the cops. And so am I.

I don’t think for one minute it was about the video taping. The officer never asked her to stop taping. He asked her to go in the house and tape from there, or get off the sidewalk, which is not her property.

We don’t know what the traffic stop was for, who it was they had in cuffs from the traffic stop (the “witnesses” said there was another person in the car), what she said before she started taping or what happened prior to the tape going on, and what other run ins she’s had with police in other antagonistic situations.

The police don’t know if they’re going to have a mob situation on their hands (she wasn’t alone out there) or what they’re dealing with with the person in the car, and they need to keep control of the situation. I think the cop was calm, rational, and within his right to ask the people to go inside to maintain control of the situation, bc these kind of seemingly innocent traffic stops can spiral out of control quickly when bystanders are acting like jerks

And let’s not miss one other important point: these folks videotaping are savvy. When the cop asks her what she’s doing, she says it’s her right. Who said it wasn’t? She’s already defensive and prepared to give the cop a hard time. And remember, we don’t know what happened prior to this taping. It seems as if she and the cop already had words. Her reason for staying outside? “I feel like I need the fresh air right now.” Riiiight.

The witnesses also said they had already called 911 to report the cop. But why? So they could inflame the situation, maybe?

So I’m with Stu on this one, Glenn. Remember Eric Massa? When you were ready to make him the poster child for political change? And that blew up in your face? I think this might be another one of those stories.

Men come to aid of stabbing victim – just another way to love your neighbor

Last night, a Henrietta teen stabbed his girlfriend in the frozen food section of the Wegmans on Calkins Rd. It sounds like a scene from some crime TV show.

But apparently 18-year-old Kevin Minemier and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Nicole Bean, were shopping when Minemier took out a knife and started stabbing Bean. Right away, shoppers Mustafa Said, 19, and Christopher Patino, 16 came to Bean’s aid, fighting Minemier to the ground; Said was stabbed in the hand in the process. Other shoppers helped hold Minemier until police arrived.

I wonder what I’d do in that situation.

I once stopped at Burger King on my way to a writers’ meeting. Outside of the restaurant a guy and a girl were having an argument. It seemed a little heated, and I kept my eye on the situation as I got my food. The girl looked like she might already have a black eye, but it was dark out and hard to see for sure. The guy tried to wrestle her car keys away as I walked out of the restaurant.

I looked at the girl and asked if everything was OK, and she said she was fine, to just leave them alone. The guy took a step toward me and glared. Then he threw her car keys onto the  Burger King roof. I walked to my car, trying not to make eye contact with the guy for fear of escalating his temper. I didn’t know what to do. I was no match for him, and I didn’t want to make things worse for her. But I didn’t want to leave her, either. 

As I walked back to my car, I saw the guy pull the girl into a car and they sped away. I called the police from my cell phone to give them a description of the car and … well, then I went to my meeting. I didn’t know what else to do.

That’s why it’s so impressive that Mustafa Said and Christopher Patino stepped in last night. They didn’t care about what happened to them; they saw a girl in desperate need and rushed to her aid. Said ended up in the hospital for treatment for the serious knife wound to his hand, but both men could have been seriously injured or killed.

I think that’s what Jesus means when talks about loving your neighbor. It means stepping in where there’s a need without regard for yourself. It’s not something most of us could do; obviously, I couldn’t.

Fun in the sun at Copapalooza 2010

Copapalooza 2010 at Cobbs Hill Park is a great day for first responders and their families

I volunteered for a shift at the Rochester Animal Services table at Copapalooza, the annual event for first responders at Cobbs Hill Park.

They didn’t need me at the table, so my sister, my daughter and I spent hours just hanging out, checking out the nifty police and fire vehicles, chatting with friends, checking out the Marine helicopters, and generally having some fun.

It’s a great event that gives a day out for first responders and their families. There was 5K run, a motorcyle run, a donut eating contest (honest!) and lots of baseball games pitting various agencies from Western NY and even Canada against each other for some friendly rivalry.

Here are some pics from the event: Continue reading