It Will Have Blood

I was dispatched on a gunshot. The 65-year-old mother reported her son had just shot himself. She was refusing to provide CPR or go see if he was okay. I was only a couple blocks away. My best friend and I arrived simultaneously and contacted the complainant at the back door. She was in a thin nightgown and completely calm. She said, “He’s down there,” pointing downstairs.

As we made our way down, I walked through a haze in the air, thick enough that it was forming waves in the air. I didn’t take immediate conscious notice of it, but both my partner and I commented on a strong smell in the air. Although I must have known better, I said that it must be gunpowder, making the connection with the call description of a gunshot.

As we got to the bottom of the stairs, I stopped at the sound of horrible moaning coming from a back bedroom. I made eye contact with Adam. “You ready?” He nodded, and we moved in slowly.

The bedroom was tucked off a small hallway that intersected with the main downstairs hallway. I saw the blood before entering. Three walls of the room were covered in goo. I couldn’t see the victim, but I could hear him. I saw a rifle laying on the bed, in a literal pool of blood. I forced myself to take a few more steps through the door. Training takes over, “Don’t stop in the fatal funnel.”

As I came through the door, I saw him to my left. He was down on all fours, rocking back and forth. The first detail I noticed was his very red shirt. I saw the bottom hem of the shirt was white, it was just a normal white t-shirt.

“Buddy, we’ve got help coming, just stay there.” I’m not sure what you’re supposed to say. He raised his face to me. It was completely cut in half, the cheek flaps waving back and forth. He had stuck a rifle under his chin, and when he stretched to reach the trigger, his head tipped back. The bullet entered the soft jaw, crossing the hard palate, and left at the top of his nose. There was nothing left but cheeks and eyes.

I’ll never forget the moaning. On all fours, he rocked back and forth, shaking his head back and forth and just moaning. The sound is still with me. As he shook his head, the two flaps of cheek kept swinging back and forth, opening and closing, just like the fucking Predator. I swear, if that guy had stood up and walked towards me, I would’ve shot him.

The first few medics arrived. They had been told by dispatch that the subject was “echo” (obviously deceased), and hesitated until I pointed out that they needed to get on this one, and get on it now. They started to cut off his red shirt. I told dispatch to get the bird going now. She said, “You want them on standby?” She was trying to help me, as really only medics are supposed to tell the air medics to fly. “No, tell them to fly now, this one’s going.”

My sergeant was the third to arrive. When he got downstairs, he took a deep breath, “What’s that smell?”

“Gunpowder, sarge.”

“Nah, that’s not gunpowder.” He breathed a few deep nasal breaths. “That’s…like propane or something.”

The medics stopped and inhaled. “Fuck.” Silence took over, and we all hear at the same time what had been covered up by horrible moaning. In the wall, behind where the man shot himself, was a bullet hole. Out of the hole came a hissing sound. The bullet had cut through the natural gas main that fed the house from the outside meter.

For the first time in my career, I saw firefighters panic. “Get out get out get out” three of them yelling at the same time. I got on the radio and called “No flames” and told everyone to clear. I saw for the first time what the “waves of haze” I had noticed earlier were. It was natural gas which had filled up the bottom floor of the house, filled it up so much that the “top” of the gas lake was over my eyes, at about six feet deep.

The medics grabbed the guy and ran upstairs. I quickly cleared the downstairs, thinking the guy might have small kids in the rooms or something. They were clear. I came upstairs and found Adam sitting calmly in the sitting room with the victim’s mother. I stopped, unable to understand what he was doing still in the house.

“Adam, get her out of here!” I wasn’t yelling yet, but I was angry. I had stayed behind for two minutes in a situation that was probably going to kill me, and he had stayed in the fucking house talking with mom?

He looked at me, confused. “Adam, get her the fuck out of this house,” I was yelling now. The mother stood up, saying she needed shoes. I grabbed her, probably too hard on the arm, she was old. I pushed her through the door. “Get the fuck out and do it now.” I could feel myself losing a bit of control. I’ve never, never lost control.

Adam didn’t understand. He had turned his radio down so he could sit with the mom and not have her hear the awful details that would likely be on the radio. He didn’t hear me give out the evacuate order. He still didn’t understand, but he trusted me, or was scared by my reaction, I’m not sure. He stepped between me and the mom, who was still trying to get inside. He did what had to be done, but he did it gently, at least. I couldn’t manage that.

I went back in with some haz-mat guys ten minutes later. The horror of the room was more noticeable this time. I saw the little bone and teeth chips were stuck in the soles of my boot. I saw that huge glops of human goo were dripping down the walls. I got to the clean wall, the only wall without spackled meat all over it. It was the wall he had faced when he pulled the trigger. I looked down and saw his chin, laying on the carpet at my feet.

“Dispatch, check with the hospital, see if they want this tissue.” I couldn’t believe I was even asking. The dude was going to die, I knew it, everyone knew it, right?

“That’s affirm, they want it delivered.”

“Copy.” How…the…fuck. My sergeant, one of my best friends, offered to do it. “Nah sarge, fuck it, I’ll get it.” I knew I was already gonna feel this one, no need for anyone else to take more of a hit on this. I grabbed a bio sack from one of the firefighters and went upstairs to the freezer. I put a layer of ice inside and went back to the chin.

You know how sometimes it’s the false expectations that get you? I went to pick up the chin. I knew it would be hard, like chins are. When I grabbed it, though, it felt like unset jello. Of course it did, there was no bone there, it was literally just the chin. It had fallen goo side down, and stuck to the carpet fibers as it dried over the previous thirty or so minutes. I had to tug at, and when it released it landed in my palm, gooey side up. I could see where his whiskers poked out…from the inside. Whoever thought that there was another end to each of our chin whiskers?

I gave the bad to a firefighter to run it to the hospital. It didn’t matter; I knew he was dead. Or going to be soon enough.

I learned later that he was 45 years old. At age 35, he got a degenerative brain disease, Huntington’s or something. It took him pretty quick, leaving him with the reasoning skills of an eight-year-old. His mother begged us on the front grass, after I probably bruised her arm, just to let him die. Where’s the DNR? I asked. There wasn’t one.

He died two hours after shooting himself. They pumped blood bag after blood bag into him, but it all just came out his massive facial wounds.

The ME called me that night, asked, “So, that was a weird one huh?” Fucking ME’s.

“What’ya need man?” I asked him.

“You notice anything strange in there?” he asked.

“…nope. Just another fucking suicide.”

“Yeah, figured. Alright, see you on the next one,” he said.


Ian T. Adams, Ph.D.
Ian T. Adams, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice

My research interests include human capital in criminal justice, policing, and criminal justice policy.