This was the headline I was reading on my smart phone while being iced down after my physical therapy session.
Things got a little more surreal when police surrounded the building we were in. They were holding assault rifles aimed in our direction. K-9 arrived next, then the S.W.A.T. Team. What was supposed to be my last day of physical therapy 15 weeks after having rotator cuff repair surgery quickly deteriorated into a serious situation where the police called us and told us to stay inside the building and lock the door.
It became apparent that we were not going to leave any time soon based on the number of police and law enforcement that nervously surrounded the building. Those of us in the therapy center were receiving mixed information. We read reports online that a gun shot was heard on the second floor of the building we were in.
At one point someone said they saw 5 S.W.A.T. members with shields escort an elderly lady to the second floor. We thought it might be to talk to whoever was up there. Perhaps to have him turn himself in. We did not know if there were hostages.
Then someone’s family called them and said they heard it was a bomb at the La Quinta Inn next door. No one seemed to know what was going on, including the police. By this time news was starting to spread.
We knew this had a significant impact as they shut down Palm Beach Lakes Blvd during Friday rush hour traffic.
The bomb squad arrived. There was nervous laughter. After about 90 minutes we started a bowling tournament on the Wii. At least we were in good company.
After two hours the S.W.A.T. team raided our section of the building. They looked like storm troopers. Faces covered by black ski masks and helmets. Each one holding an assault rifle.
After they cleared each room, they escorted all occupants (in groups of 7) out of the building to the neighboring La Quinta Inn. Wait a second, wasn’t there a bomb?
Apparently every news crew in town filmed our escort.
I have never stayed at a La Quitna Inn. Perhaps there is a reason for that. Not only was the hotel serving as central headquarters for law enforcement, the residents were quite, how do i say this, interesting. They put us in the lounge. The continental breakfast was still available. Mmmm…. dried cereal.
Each of us were interviewed by 2 separate detectives. They quickly checked our IDs and wrote down our personal information. When asked what I saw, I replied, “A lot of cops”. We were then routed to the La Quinta Lobby and instructed to wait until further notice.
At this point, a spectrum of people, residents and storm trooping law enforcement had gathered in the La Quinta Lobby. It looked like a scene from the “Star Wars” cantina on Tatooine. Only problem… no alcohol. So wait we did.
I learned the therapists had terms for us based on our injury. Either “shoulders” or “knees”. I was a “shoulder”. When you watch the news reports, most of us are limping. This made my last day of therapy very memorable.
A quick shout out to my PT buddies; Jennifer, Monica, Mark, Jaime, Jamie, Amber, Dr. Joe, John and everyone else. I appreciate your company.
Several hours later, it was over. No gun shots. No arrest. Nothing. Nada. Zero. We were just told we could leave.
Needless to say, I was out of there. As I was the first one back to the parking lot I had an encounter with a storm trooper. Based on his actions and behaviors, he did not seem to know what was going on. Grrrr…
Later that night I got to see myself on the news. On every local channel.
So what happened which caused such a response? Looks like we will never know. West Palm Beach Police Chief Vincent Damasi commented that a phone call was made reporting domestic violence and a gun shot. No one was injured and no gunman, gun, bullet holes or casings were found.
I have tried to process the event. I have never been in such a “confused” atmosphere.
I can’t help but thinking what if someone made the call to distract law enforcement. It took over 90 minutes for the police to create a perimeter and secure the scene. What if something was really happening across town? If something did happen, I know no police would be around. Traffic was stopped for hours. Me and my PT cohorts were trapped for 4 hours. Who knows how much this exercise cost the taxpayers. I am hopeful a lesson was learned.