This may not be an exact account of what happened on that April night; after all I was only 7 years old...but it's as I remember it. It's as it is in my dreams, the dreams that still haunt me from time to time, most recently two nights ago. The mind is a funny thing, and maybe I shouldn't have even been affected by what I saw or what I *think* I remember I saw but there it lies still waiting until I feel content and then creeping back into my subconscious like a thief in the night and reminding me that you never know what might happen next...
In 1987 I was in 2nd grade, other than my parents nasty divorce I hadn't come across much adversity in my life. I hadn't lost a loved one to old age or any else for that matter. I lived a normal quiet life with my dad, my stepmom and my two younger brothers. We stopped at our local KMart on a Thursday night. I don't remember what we needed to pick up, or why we might have been compelled to stop. It didn't matter anyway because it wasn't the stop that changed the way I looked at life, it was what happened afterwards.
My father was a plumber, he had just had a hernia surgery. I remember we were checking out and he decided to get a head start to the car, he was still walking with a bit of a limp, slowly...deliberately. My brothers were in the cart and my mom was paying so I decided to walk with my dad. As we reached the double doors leading outside things changed in a flash. A white car backfired outside and a man hit the pavement, but there was blood. Why was there blood from a car backfiring? Why was he laying in the road? And why was my dad going after him? I remember my dad pushing me back inside and telling the cashiers to call the police...someone is shot. Someone is SHOOTING still. Everyone looked at him in stunned faced silence, crazy man with a limp. What is he talking about?
The next few minutes are a blur, I vaguely remember someone helping my father drag the wounded man inside...or do I? Is that an addition to my memory over time? I remember them ushering us to the back of the store, to lie in wait for the Crazy Man with the Gun to come in and find us and kill us all like rats in a trap. My dad and mom didn't feel that was a good idea so instead we took off, dashing through the parking lot. I remember screams of STAY DOWN STAY DOWN, GET IN THE FLOORBOARDS AND STAY DOWN. I remember arriving home safely. I remember trying to be shielded from the news on the television of the stand off in the shopping center where the Crazy Man with the Gun had killed 6 people, 10 people, 12 people...no one seemed to know and now he was holding a poor girl hostage.
The standoff lasted well into the night, long after I had been made to go to bed. Long after the nightmares of the Crazy Man with the Gun remembering my face and finding me began. I remember my mother coming into my room and telling me that they caught him and it was over. But for me it's never really been over. I don't even know that we were ever in real danger that night but I know that it changed how I looked at the world, seeing Bad People around every corner. Worrying that the strange or furtive looks that come from anyone on the street might lead to gunfire and mayhem. I know that I still dream of William Cruse 22 years later.
William Cruse really did kill 6 people on April 23, 1987. 4 were college students and 2 were police officers. He wounded close to 20 others, set off because some children were bouncing a basketball too loudly near his home. I believe he is still on death row in Florida to this day.