I have a story that demonstrates the main idea of this article – its kind of long but pretty exciting and hence its worth sharing but not taking up class time [if that makes sense]
My boyfriend unfortunately witnessed a shooting last year [i know, scary. And NO he is not a thug and does not live in the ghetto at school or anything]. The confrontation was between his neighbor [also a college student] and two men who lived down the street. A bunch of my boyfriend’s friends were out in the street being drunk and stupid setting off fireworks… Robbie [bf] was studying for an exam he had the next day but was aware of the raucous outside his house. He went outside when he heard the fireworks going off and witnessed the scene as it unfolded. Apparently 2 guys that lived down the street approached cursing, half naked [only in boxers in 30 degree winter weather], and trying to start a fight. They apparently did not appreciate fireworks being shot at 11pm down their street. It was apparent that these men were either intoxicated or on some sort of drugs because of their aggressive and strange behavior. To get to the chase, Robbie got his roommate in the house [who had previous run ins with the police and was intoxicated] and stood on the porch helpless to what might happen yet. — personally i would have liked for him to get in the house and or call the police at this time but boys are silly — So in this shout-fest the students [Robbie’s friends] were given the impression that these guys had a concealed knife and they made for their respective houses. Robbie’s neighbor, Mark, went inside and got his shotgun to scare the men away. Mark stood on HIS porch and told the men to leave, threatening to shoot them if they continued to advance on his property. One man continued to come at the porch and Mark shot a warning shot into the air. At this the man ran at him and Mark shot him in the leg with a bird shell, disabling him and obviously hurting him badly. Then the 2nd man grabbed a tiki torch out of the yard and began to swing it at Mark, running up his yard and up the steps of his porch. Mark shot this man two times once in the leg and once in the private parts [unfortunate and not intentional]. After the first shot the man continued to come at Mark so he fired the second. [I know this sounds ridiculous but this did happen – despite obvious bias on my part and a few details potentially misplaced since I wasn’t there]
Robbie was one of two guys to witness it besides the 3 directly involved [the shooter and “victims”] and he was taken to the police station for questioning. This where it comes back to the article. Robbie obviously witnessed this crime and there was no doubt who was involved since two men were in the hospital and Mark turned himself in when the police arrived. What is interesting is what details we make up if we didn’t remember. Robbie thought there were only 3 shots fired. In my story there are obviously 4 and I think the police report says that there were 5. It may not be relevant to the charges at all but this is a crucial piece of information which everyone had differently.
In circumstances where tensions are high and adrenaline is pumping, it is easy to miss key details and to fill them in with what makes sense. Robbie remembered that both men were shot and that there was a warning shot. He did not remember that there was a second shot fired in the air as warning [which i left out in my story] and then a second shot at the 2nd advancing man. It doesn’t matter how closely a witness pays attention – they are going to miss something. Robbie had no motivation to change the story from 5 shots to 3, it is what he truly thought happened. He also told me that he was worried that with every retelling he was solidifying his story, but also potentially changing it. He wrote it down the next day to be sure if he were questioned further he would keep the story the same. Needless to say he didn’t do well on his exam the next day….