So today was intense. This whole week since the holiday weekend has been, actually. I’ve been all over the place – Puyallup, Tacoma, Redmond, Gig Harbor, and Federal Way. Then there’s the work I’ve done at home, teleconferencing with my co-workers (much more successfully than last time) and writing the Puyallup police blotter. I’ve also become more engaged with Patch’s Facebook users, who tip us off to stories all the time.
But I’ll start with today’s big event. Well, I have to talk about yesterday for that to make sense. Thursday morning, we learned of a report from Puyallup that a teenage boy allegedly choked a seven-year-old girl and left her in the woods. Once police found the girl, she was able to identify her attacker, and they took her to the hospital for surgery. She’s still there now; we hope she’ll be okay. But the story of what happened to her, after the medical reports came out, is truly gruesome. There are signs of sexual assault. And she’s seven. SEVEN. This is going to be engrained in her memory for the rest of her life. I feel for her so much. I want to just give her a hug and tell her I understand, even though I really don’t, because nothing like this has ever happened to me. (Although I can’t say that the feeling of being violated is entirely foreign to me. And I know others who have been assaulted, too.) So the teenage boy suspected of the attack is in custody in juvenile hall. I learned all about this from news reports that my co-worker Lauren wrote yesterday. Last night when I was out in Puyallup having beer and meeting community members, Lauren suggested that I come with her to a hearing to detain the boy for probable cause. I didn’t say yes right away, but I knew I wanted to and need the experience. It’s something every journalist must have to do in his or her lifetime. So I decided to go. I met Lauren in the parking lot of Remann Hall in Tacoma, the juvenile detention center for Pierce County, and we went and checked in. It was probably the first time during my internship this year that I’ve really felt the need to dress up for a story and be really careful about what I was doing. We had to go through a metal detector and everything. The courtroom was very small, but a lot of media members were there from local TV stations. The prosecution gave each of us a document detailing what was known so far about the case. No charges have officially been filed, although based on the evidence there is some idea about what might be pressed. I won’t say those here. The most chilling moment was when the boy came into the courtroom. He looked so young, which he is, and it was hard to imagine him harming a girl in such a brutal way. As I read through the documents, though, I realized we were putting a potential face to it. That’s when I thought, “WOW.” I didn’t have any reason to be afraid, but I kind of was.
The hearing wasn’t very long – just a few documents signed and the understanding established that the boy will be detained at least until his arraignment hearing on Tuesday, which I’ll attend as well. That one will establish more things, such as what charges will be formally filed. There will hopefully be more medical records for evidence. Everyone is being very careful here, with two young lives facing major impact. I feel for the boy as well, under such public scrutiny. I have no idea what he’s been through. We shall see… thinking about it just put a dark cloud over the rest of my day.
Today was a crazy news day overall, with a plane catching fire in London and a train wreck in Paris. Then there was a police chase in Gig Harbor and Tacoma. I had to go to Redmond to cover the Derby Days festival for them. Also this week I covered the trolley opening for Gig Harbor (which isn’t without public scrutiny since Pierce Transit has apparently cut a lot of bus routes recently) and started on a story about coyote spottings in University Place. Tomorrow I’m heading to Rhubarb Days in Sumner, and Sunday I’ll stay here on Mercer Island for Summer Celebration. I’ve got a lot of great stories on the docket for next week too! I feel like a real journalist. I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life, especially if I can continue working with these people. They are fantastic!
I suppose I should work on my fiction story for at least a few minutes before bedtime. Early morning tomorrow before Rhubarb Days – they’re having a pancake breakfast that I’m hoping to stop by. 🙂