I had an ambitious plan on Wednesday: After work, I’d go to the mall to buy some scented candles and hand soap. But, like many of my after-work plans, this one didn’t materialize.
That morning, a hearing where a man accused of killing an infant pleaded guilty stretched into his unexpected sentencing. (Unexpected to me; the judge and lawyers were prepared for it.)
When I got to the newsroom that afternoon (after writing a news alert on the sentencing, as well as attending the hearing of a man charged with the attempted murder of a state Highway Patrol Trooper), I was working on the full-length version of the plea change/sentencing when my editor told me that local police had just tweeted about a shooting.
I rushed to the scene in my courthouse attire –– a heather gray cardigan over a baby pink charmeuse dress and 2-1/2 inch heels –– not knowing that my day would include walking around the gravel driveway of a shooting scene on a windy day. There was no time to change clothes, but I vowed to keep at least a pair of flat shoes in the car.
According to the police department spokesman, a man had been seriously injured with a gunshot wound to the chest and was taken to the local hospital. Investigators were looking for a male suspect.
I went back to the office, wrote about the incident, then returned to my court story. I remember looking down at my watch around 7:30 p.m. and thinking, I’ll be done in time to make it to the mall before it closed at 9 p.m.
Around 8 p.m., my editor called to say the police department had just sent out an update that the shooting victim had died. The incident had turned into a homicide investigation, and a man and a woman were wanted for questioning.
It was Rapid City’s seventh homicide case for the year, two short of the record-setting year 2015.
I needed to rework my earlier story, since it was now going to be the top story in Thursday’s paper. I got in touch with the police spokesman with follow-up questions and checked if the newspaper archives had anything on the two people being sought. I bookmarked the candle-and-soap shopping for another day.
The suspects were later found and arrested. The man is facing a murder charge, whereas the woman is charged with being an accessory to a crime.
The unexpectedness of how a reporter’s day goes is the nature of the crime beat, sometimes the courts too. It was among the first things I learned on my first journalism job –– covering crimes for a Philippine TV program –– and still holds true 17 years later.
I’ve had to cancel or postpone plans with family and friends numerous times over the years, which has caused frustration. But at least on Wednesday, I only had to change my plans with myself.