I just checked in at Murder Park.


Last night, I listened to the police scanner for hours. I couldn’t sleep. Soren was doing this thing he does sometimes where he sleeps for a few hours and then something like this happens: Cry. Quiet. Cry. Quiet. Cry. Crycrycrycry scream! That’s when you go in to see what he needs. Most of the time, he’s kind of still asleep while this is happening — he’s crying with his eyes closed and you go in there and he doesn’t open his eyes and you don’t want to do much because you don’t want to totally wake him up. Eventually you give him some milk even though you don’t want to give him milk in bed but it’s the only thing that works. He wakes up enough to drink the milk and then is quiet for a while, until the whole cycle starts over again.

Variations of this cycle occurred from midnight to 3 a.m. last night. Ben can sleep through it until I make enough noise to wake him up because I feel like I’ll go crazy if I don’t get some sleep. I can’t sleep through it. I’ll be drifting off, finally, and then the first “Waaaaah!” has me wide awake, where I remain in some fight-or-flight-like state, until after the last “Waaaaah!” of the night has been uttered, whenever that might be.

So I was listening to the police scanner between waaaaahs. Because several people often speak at once on the scanner, it’s hard for me to figure out what’s happening sometimes. I heard something about a man and a woman who had been parked in a McDonald’s parking lot for four hours, and someone inside finally called it in because they were closing the restaurant. I think they sent multiple officers to the McDonald’s parking lot. This sounded like it had the potential to be really bad. Nobody sits in a McDonald’s parking lot for four hours. There was something else at 29th and Lafayette, but I didn’t catch what. I always perk up a little when our ‘hood is mentioned.

This morning, I checked the Denver Police twitter stream to find out what happened last night, because I had a really bad feeling about the McDonald’s parking lot. I didn’t see anything about that, but I did see something about 30th and Lafayette.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Park is located at 30th and Lafayette, where one street curves into the other. I didn’t even know the name of the park until yesterday, when I added it to Foursquare. (I’m a total dork about adding random neighborhood parks to Foursquare.) It’s a tiny park. There are a couple picnic benches, a little play structure, and three swings — two regular and one baby. We took Soren there late yesterday afternoon to go on the swing. We figured we’d try a different park and knew Williams (I keep wanting to refer to it as Kevin McHale Park, or at least I did before I came up with a better nickname) has baby swings. Well, a baby swing. Just one.

I didn’t realize, or I forgot, that this park is a big-time hangout. One picnic table was filled with youngish guys, two of whom were shooting craps. Somebody was smoking terrible weed. One of the young guys was wearing a White Sox hat. I never know what this means any more. Older guys were sitting at the other table. One of them walked around the park picking up trash. He said “hi” to us. Whoever had been smoking weed stopped while we were there with the baby. The whole time we were there, a guy stood on 29th, away from everybody else. I’m not sure what he was doing. Cars and SUVs with booming bass drove by or parked and the people got out and came to the park.

It was — and I’m not sure how to write about this without sounding like an asshole, which I’d really like to avoid here — definitely a situation where we were out of place. I wasn’t worried about the people at the park. They weren’t interested in messing with us. What I was worried about were the people out there, assuming they exist, who have a problem with the people at the park. Like that guy who just drove by in the SUV. That guy made me nervous. But I don’t know. I watch a lot of The First 48 and have an overactive imagination.

I don’t know whether the better course of action would’ve been to not stop at the park in the first place. I don’t know. When you bring your kid to the park and there are people who are different from you in whatever way there, aren’t you kind of an asshole if you just leave? I mean, the act of putting our kid on a swing isn’t a big statement or anything, but isn’t that sometimes the right thing to do, even if you feel weird about it?

We didn’t stay at the park for very long — just long enough for Soren to swing for a while and grab a few pine cones that he’d obsessively carry around for the next hour and for me to add the park to Foursquare. I told Ben I’d like to become mayor of the park, which shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. One more check in and I’d have it.

We walked past what had become a decent crowd by one of the picnic tables and headed up Lafayette. I told Ben I thought it would be kind of cool if we had a neighborhood hangout like that park, where you could just show up whenever and someone would be there. Our people, if you want to be that way (and I really don’t, but I have to be honest) don’t do stuff like that. We hang out in our yards and, at least if you’re us, are pretty isolated from our neighbors. Williams Park said something interesting to me during our short time there. I’m not sure exactly how to interpret it.

Anyway, back to the Denver Police Twitter stream. When I checked it this morning, I saw:

BREAKING: DPD Offcrs and Dets are investigating a homicide at Williams Park (2952 N Lafayette St)

Here’s the related article from The Denver Post:

Man shot to death in Denver’s Dr. Daniel Hale Park

A man was shot to death in a Denver park tonight and his assailant fled in a black sport-utility vehicle.

The victim has not been identified. He died after being shot multiple times about 8 p.m. in Dr. Daniel Hale Park at 3000 North Lafayette St., said police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

“There may have been multiple witnesses in the park who ran away,” Jackson said. “We’re hoping they will come back and talk to us.”

Jackson said it appeared the shooter got out of the SUV at the street, walked into the park and had a conversation with the victim, before he pulled out a pistol and began shooting.

Anyone with information can call Denver police at 720-913-2000 or call Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867. Tips also can be sent by text to CRIMES (274637) then title DMCS, or by e-mail to metro-denvercrimestoppers.com.

So, approximately three hours after we were hanging out at this park with our kid, somebody was murdered there. I don’t know who it was or whether it was someone we saw yesterday. I don’t know why it happened or who did it. I don’t know what would’ve happened if we’d been at the park at the time. I don’t know why this shit happens. I just — I just don’t know.

I’ve heard about people running races, like today’s Bolder Boulder, in memory of loved ones. We didn’t run a race this morning — Ben, Soren, Peaches, and I just went for a run through the ‘hood, down to and around City Park. It doesn’t count for anything, but I ran in memory of the guy who was killed in my neighborhood last night, whoever he was. I’m sorry that happened. I hope there’s something we can do to make it better.

Update: On June 3, 2011, the victim was identified as Richard Eugene McDaniel. He was 40 years old.