Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania is a little over 7 miles long and 7 miles wide. With a city so small and over 79 sworn personnel (City of Wilkes-Barre Police Department, 2016) one would think that Wilkes-Barre is a pretty safe city to live in. However, Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania has a 25% higher crime rate then the national average (Areavibes, 2016). Having this information we are able to see that the police department is definitely not understaffed so why such a high amount of unsolved violent crimes? The Wilkes-Barre City police department would like for us to think that it is because witnesses do not come forward or victims are unwilling to cooperate. Although this may be true for some, I can tell you first hand that it is not the scenario for all the cases.
2014 was the most difficult year that my family and I have ever endured. My oldest son was shot in his neck over a $40.00 bag of marijuana (he was 18 years old at the time). Now before I go any further I want to touch on something real quick. I know that many people think or say that my son should not have put himself in a situation to where this sort of “thing” can happen, I myself have spoke to my son since this has happened and I have told him this very same thing. But the truth is that my son, although he was in a place he should have never been, he still did not deserve what has played out since that dreadful day on September 14, 2014.
From the very moment the Wilkes-Barre City police department arrived on the scene of my sons shooting there has been nothing but lies, ignorance, and lack of communication from the Wilkes-Barre City police department. And a year later the detective on my sons case decided to not charge the shooter with anything because the detective deems my son to be untruthful. Let me explain why this detective may fathom this idea. As my son is collapsed against a stone wall holding his neck where the bullet entered he was asked by the officer who arrived on the scene, “Do you know who shot you?” my son replied, “some black guy” (this certainly was not a prejudice statement, my son is after all biracial). This statement made the local paper and attracted the most rudest and racist people Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania has to offer. It would not be long that my family would find out just how bias not only the people of Wilkes-Barre can be but also the Wilkes-Barre City police department.
Once my son arrived at the hospital he was immediately brought into surgery where he would have his trachea reconstructed and placed in an induced comma for exactly three weeks. My heart was heavy and there was not a definite “yes” from the surgeon that my son was going to live. Now maybe I am wrong here however, I expected to hear something from the detective on my sons case. I expected the police department to at least call the hospital one time to check on my sons condition. I expected the police to care. I expected the police to do something. Yet, three weeks of sitting in a chair next to my sons hospital bed holding his hand goes by and nothing. Not one visit. Not one phone call. Nothing!
During the few hours that I left my sons side and went home to care for my other two children, I would make time to call the detective, e-mail the detective and even stop down at the police station. Not one time during these first three weeks did one personnel (one out of 79 sworn personnel) speak with me. I mean at this point they did not even know if my son was alive, if they were working on a homicide or not. To be honest, I now know that they truly did not care. I remember all I kept thinking was that they were probably busy working on my sons case and will contact me as soon as they have something, anything.
Once my son was able to come home from the hospital we finally were able to get in touch with the detective. Finally we were able to get somewhere, at least that is what I thought. Our first meeting with the detective was short and brief. I must acknowledge I know why it was so brief. My son did not tell the truth at first. He was telling everyone including me, that he was trying to get a “front” (someone to let him borrow marijuana until he can pay for it at a later date) and that the guy shot him because of that. I will be honest, I believed my son because I do know that there are some petty individuals in this world that would not hesitate to take a life over something like this. However, the police were able to identify the fact that my son was lying and I believe my son felt that because roughly a week later my son came to me and told me the truth, that he was trying to sell an eighth of marijuana.
Once I learned of the truth I talked to my son and we both knew that he had to tell the detective. So, I called, I e-mailed, and again, I made random stops into the police department so we can tell the detective the truth. It took six months, yes, six months for the detective to finally answer my endless attempts to contact him. When we finally had the opportunity to meet with the detective my son did in-fact tell the truth and explained that he had lied out of fear of being arrested himself. At that very moment, the detective looked at my son and told him “because you decided to lie now there is an animal out there running around with a gun”. The detectives entire demeanor was out of control. I understand that my son lied at first however; the second and last time we met or even spoke with the detective (April of 2015) my son told the truth. It is not as if my son let the lie take over, he owned up to what his wrong was and when given the chance, after the shock wore thinner after being brutally assaulted, he told the truth.
Six months after our second and last meeting with the detective I get a phone call from the District Attorneys office (a place I have been to many times to count since this entire ordeal) informing me that the detective will not be filing any charges and my sons case is simply dismissed. Dismissed? Wait, I am missing something here. How can someone shoot another human being (who was not being aggressive in any manner), almost take their life and have no charges filed against them? This is not a case of not knowing who the perpetrator was or even where he lived (there is pictures and witnesses). This is not a case where the victim was being uncooperative although, the detective would say different. This is a case where the Wilkes-Barre City police department takes a bias and prejudice approach and simply discards it.
From time to time I catch myself thinking, “How many other families has the Wilkes-Barre City police department made feel unworthy of protection or that their or their loved ones lives did not matter?”. Every day since September 14, 2014 I have been plagued with terrible thoughts and feelings. This horrific nightmare has affected my entire close knit family. Every day we live in fear. Why? Well, there are several reasons. For one, the individual who shot my son only lives a few blocks away and without ever being charged with shooting my son who knows just how comfortable he is with coming to our home. Another reason why fear has settled in my family is because we now know the hard core truth that dwells inside the hearts of the sworn personnel at the Wilkes-Barre City police department.
It may seem that my bitterness is leaned towards the detective that was supposed to be on my sons case rather than the person who shot and almost took my sons life. I must be honest here, this would be a correct statement. The coward who shot my son did what was normal to him. It is part of that life style which again I will admit that my son had no business trying to being part of. But, the detective was supposed to help my son, that is part of his job which he did not preform at all yet my taxes still paid his salary. Not one time did that detective act in a way as to where he appeared to care about the well being of my child, not one time.
Many families are suffering from a tragic event in this very small city. It is bad enough that these families have to deal with the loss of a loved one or being victims of a violent crime, but why do they also have to relive the hell they went through and are going through when dealing with the Wilkes-Barre City police department? Even when you seem to get no where with the police department and you go through all the proper channels, the Chief of Police, the District Attorney, the Mayor, the Wilkes-Barre City police department appears to be untouchable. The District Attorneys office will tell you that they have no jurisdiction over the Wilkes-Barre City police department and local news stations and attorneys will tell you that the Wilkes-Barre City police department are the most difficult of people to approach. What is left to do?
Today, my son is striving in life although he does have a life long health issue stemming from this incident. He has learned a life’s lesson the hard way. Today, my concern is with the many families who have gone through or are currently going through a similar circumstance. Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania is in a very dark place, it is in a crisis! We have an overwhelming amount of unsolved violent crimes and we have a police force more worried about out dated inspection stickers and all other traffic violations. This is unacceptable! There is enough of sworn personnel in the Wilkes-Barre City police department where if you break it down into eight hour shifts, you can have four officers per mile yet every time I see a Wilkes-Barre City police car they are most often than not, parked next to another police car in a store parking lot (and some stay like that for quiet some time).
Something has got to give in this city. Our police need to communicate more with victims and or their families and perhaps some sort of activities should be set in place for our youth to prevent all of this madness Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania has been witnessing for years now. Before I bring this blog to a close I do want to mention something real quick. Many people, admittedly myself as well, will often pass judgement on the victim and or their families, whether it be race, sex, or even places they live or visit. But I have learned that non of that makes a difference because my son was never in any sort of trouble, he is not violent or ignorant, he comes from a loving, hard working family and by no means did he deserve this. My hopes in writing this blog is to bring awareness to what is going on in our city not only with the every day civilians but also with our men and women who are suppose to serve and protect us.
Wilkes-Barre City Police Department. 2016. Organization. Retrieved from: http://wilkes-
Areavibes.com. 2010-2016. Wilkes-Barre PA Crime Rate and Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.areavibes.com/wilkes-barre-pa/crime/
Citizens Voice. Jacob Seibel. July 28, 2015. For Wilkes-Barre authorities, violent crime too unpredictable to prevent. Retrieved from: http://m.citizensvoice.com/news/for-wilkes-barre-authorities-violent-crime-too-unpredictable-to-prevent-1.1919212