Eyewitness to Gun Violence

Eyewitness to Gun Violence
by Miguel Balbuena

On Sept. 21 I went to Betts Branch Library, at 4862 S. Salina St., to see the movie “The Secret Life of Pets 2” on the big screen. The film started promptly at 2:30 p.m. and had a running time of 86 minutes. Then, taking advantage that it was still summer and the weather was nice, I decided to do a power hike from the Valley, the neighborhood where the library is located, to Cafe Kubal, at 401 S. Salina St., in downtown Syracuse in order to get on time before it closed at 7:00 p.m.

Approximately at 4:50 p.m., I heard “Pop, pop, pop!” in rapid succession as I was walking northbound on the sidewalk to the right, about half way down the 1800 block of South Salina Street, before its intersection with McLennan Avenue. Having been trained to shoot with rifles, pistols and other weapons in the Army Reserve for stints within four years, I knew these three loud noises could not have been caused by firecrackers. My conclusion was confirmed when I had a visual. I saw the passenger’s side front and back windows of a white sedan shattered and the driver bleeding and leaning unconscious onto the steering wheel.

The vehicle was coming out of the driveway of the apartment complex known as Ashley Arms when the motorist was hit. It seemed that his foot had kept pressing the gas pedal as the car, in slow motion, finished coming out of this driveway and got into the driveway across South Salina Street, where it was stopped when it collided with the front of a black pickup truck parked there.

I was the only pedestrian on the sidewalks of this block at the time of this incident and it appear to me that none of the occupants of the passing cars became aware of the shooting as they didn’t slow down, much less stopped. It seemed that the shots were fired from long range from a point behind my back, i.e., not
within my field of vision. At the time I wasn’t sure whether the perpetrator or perpetrators would keep on shooting or whether there were passengers in the car who would shoot back. Situational awareness advised me to stand still until it was not dangerous to proceed.

Another pedestrian walked southbound in a zombie-like state with her head looking down to
her smartphone screen. Nothing happened to her, which indicated to me in no uncertain terms that now it was safe to carry on with my business. Before long, four cruisers from the Syracuse Police Department, a truck from the emergency medical services of the Syracuse Fire Department and two vehicles from the
American Medical Response company showed up. One of them transported the victim, in critical condition, to Upstate Medical University Hospital.

Since I wasn’t able to see any detail that would have been helpful to the law enforcement officers, it would have been inappropriate for me to waste their precious time during this tragic moment. I am confident that ballistic and forensic analyses conducted by the Criminal Investigations Division of the SPD would provide it with more relevant information.

The night before I witnessed the shooting, I had watched two movies back to back: “Rocketman” and “Shaft.” “Rocketman” was about the life and career of musician Elton John; “Shaft” was about the exploits of trigger-happy vigilante John Shaft, who left in his wake plenty of shattered glasses, blood and gore, and other outcomes of gratuitous violence.

The scene on South Salina Street reminded me more of “Shaft” than of “Rocketman,” with the difference that it didn’t appear to be the effect of the action of a vigilante. Instead, it has the markings of yet another round of the turf fight being waged between rival gangs for control of distribution territory on Syracuse’s South Side.

South Salina Street is a teeming thoroughfare in Syracuse and, as such, it stands to reason to view it as one of the safest places in town. Nonetheless, on Sept. 10 and Feb. 18 three people in total were shot on its 2000 block, near Wood Ave., two blocks down the location of latest incident. A male was injured in last year’s attack; a man and a woman were injured in the one five months later. The woman died in a hospital as a result. Then, on May 22 a female was shot on the 4300 block of South Salina Street.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).