A City of Rehoboth Beach Road Officer Responds to a Suicide-By-Cop Call
911: Suicidal subject. A Rehoboth cop faces a man with a death wish.
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With almost any job, the day-to-day events start to become predictable: A plus B is going to equal C. The same holds true in police work, except—and this could be a fatal exception—A plus B does not always equal C. A plus B can equal the Twilight Zone—a place where nothing occurs as expected.
I work a 12-hour shift, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Either way, 12 hours is a long day. I am a road cop for the city of Rehoboth Beach. A road cop, as opposed to an investigator, is a cop who takes whatever call comes through the 911 call board. So calls can run from the benign, such as a parking complaint, to a man shooting his ex-wife’s lover in the chest on the west end of town.
Rehoboth Beach is one of six small summer resort towns that run down the Atlantic Coast of Southern Delaware. Each town has a distinct character and many visitors choose their destination based on this unique character.
Rehoboth has the boardwalk and tree-lined residential streets. Dewey, with its noise and carnival atmosphere, appeals to the young, single crowd.
Also during the off-season, these towns have their special character. By mid-December, Rehoboth Beach is decorated with Christmas lights, bows and wreaths, and the town bustles with commerce. The stores are having their last sales booms of the year, and the bars and restaurants are busy with company Christmas parties. The town feels warm, and life seems like it couldn’t get better.
This was the kind of feeling I had the afternoon I got the call:
“7314 (my badge number) to Van Dyke Street in Dewey Beach to assist a Dewey officer with a suicidal subject.”
I’ve been to a few suicides. When I arrive at the scene where the deed has been done, I always have the feeling that the deceased’s soul is still hovering about in a manic state. I feel like I can almost hear a desperate plea for help before the soul finally disappears into eternity. Sadness fills the scene. I can’t shake it. But the victim is dead and only cleanup is left to do.
“10-4 Rehoboth, in route,” I say over the radio.
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