Fear, uncertainty, and death

Monday morning, I hopped on my bike and rode to work. I like to take Moore Avenue via Duke Street and Waterloo Street — running more or less parallel to King, but without all the traffic. Narrow, leafy streets and cute homes with front porches welcome me as the hazy dawn breaks into full daylight. It’s a pleasant commute.

This route takes me close to Breithaupt Park, where I sometimes go swimming after work at the public pool. It’s the last place you’d expect a shooting to happen. But that’s exactly what occurred as I was preparing to leave home that morning. All this week, I’ve felt less safe going there.

Around 7:00 AM yesterday, a man was found shot and bleeding out on a front lawn on Margaret Avenue. He was taken to hospital, but it was too late to save him.

Police closed the street and put all the area schools on lockdown. Parents at my workplace were concerned for their kids. They were soon reassured: by early afternoon, the schools re-opened. The threat appeared to have passed.

Only, we still don’t know what’s going on. Police don’t know where the killer is, or if it was an intentional act.

By 6 p.m. Monday police had made no arrests and said “the risk to public safety is not yet known.” People are urged to be vigilant, aware of their surroundings, and report any suspicious activity to police.

“These types of incidents bring trepidation and uncertainty,” Chief Bryan Larkin said in a statement. “We live in a very safe community and the public can rest assured that our members are committed to a thorough investigation and to restoring a sense of calm.”

“Man dead after being shot by arrow”, The Record, 5 October 2015

Someone is dead and we don’t know why. Nobody saw the shooting happen. And the best advice our police can give us is to be vigilant. It’s now three days later and there are no suspects. Under the circumstances, the community is impressively calm.

Make no mistake: this was a shooting death, but it wasn’t gun violence. The victim was shot with an arrow. And that puts a bizzare angle on the whole ordeal.

I have to imagine things would be playing out differently if the killing involved a gun. There would be widespread fear about thugs running our streets. Police would be swarming the city. We’d hear loud calls for action in the news and on people’s Facebook walls. Instead, the atmosphere in Kitchener-Waterloo is more nervous and confused.

The fact that the weapon was some kind of crossbow or bow-and-arrow is difficult for us to respond to. On the surface, it seems wacky and absurd, and makes it easier to laugh and shrug off the news as a freak accident.

We’d sure like it to be a freak accident. As I bike through that neighbourhood on my way to and from work this week, I’ve felt an odd sense of fear wrapped up in confusion. It’s not the fear of street crime or the feeling of a “dangerous” neighbourhood. It’s not quite the fear of an unknown other, although that plays into it.

It’s the fear that this wasn’t a mistake. That someone could be out there, ready to target their second victim, and that I’m exposed. Riding through the quaint streets, swiftly, like a gazelle on the open plains. And I’m being hunted.

Sam Nabi Sam Nabi