Can we be sure we really know someone, even if they’re family, even if they’ve been a part of our lives for over twenty years?
Last week Mary commented on my blog about the many ways we can interpret history and the people who make it: An Author Goes on Trail
She said this: ‘Now, it is harder to get away with saying something is, when it isn’t, with all of the video cameras, phone videos and eyes in the sky. It’s easier to test the veracity and prove it wrong. But, it still doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?’
Which made me think of this:
On August 29 a 34-year-old Portland man was shot dead after being stopped for speeding by Oregon State Police trooper, Matt Zistel.
The man he shot was a former army reservist and an ordained pastor. He had a total of five children, and had recently become a grandfather.
Three of those children were in the car at the time of the shooting –a 10-year-old girl and two boys, ages 13 and 15.
Police said he got out of the car and fired at Zistel, who fired back in self defence. Afterwards Allen jumped in his vehicle, drove a half mile and then died, slumped in his seat, dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest, fired by Zistel.
Zistel himself was wounded on the left side and taken to the hospital and released later the same day.
The dead man’s cousin told media that the dead man’s actions seemed to be “completely out of character.”
“He would have never have shot at a police official or anyone of the law,” he said. “He would not have missed the kill shot either.”
His girlfriend, who had known him since schooldays, weighed in as well:
“He was always a happy, hopeful, lovable person. He never got into trouble. He never got into fights in school. He was just very respectful. John was a God-fearing man. This is so out of character. I think there’s more to this story. It’s so horrible that his children had to witness this.”
She questioned why Allen would get into a gun battle with police, especially with his three children in the car.
“I can’t see him jeopardizing those kids,” she said. “I’ve seen him pack up and move to get away from a bad neighborhood.”
But after Sherman County district attorney Wade McLeod reviewed the case he decided Trooper Zistel acted in self defence and did not take the case to a grand jury.
The entire confrontation had been recorded by the dashboard camera in Zistel’s patrol car. Eventually on October 4 the video was released to quell speculation about the episode. Now you can see what the DA saw:
Out of character? Maybe.
We may never know why he did what he did. But it gives us pause when we think of history, any history. Which leads right back to the conversation we started in with. We know what happened, but making sense of it is sometimes beyond us. What may seem logical is not always as it is.
ISABELLA, Braveheart of France.
And also available as POD from Cool Gus publishing.