The main thing on my mind the moment a man brandished a knife next to me at the county jail in late January was, “Is this really happening?”
I’m telling you this because it caught me completely off guard, and maybe, if something similar happens to you, you’ll react a little better than I did.
I first saw the man as I quickly jogged up the jail’s front steps, a few minutes before my scheduled 2 p.m. tour. We made eye contact, and I immediately noticed the man was wearing a cloth, skeleton-style mask under the hood of his sweatshirt.
The mask was definitely weird, I thought. But the man looked calm, so I shrugged it off. It was cold outside, and maybe he preferred to wear masks. I continued toward the jail’s front door and dismissed any notion of danger.
Seconds later, I was at the security checkpoint, just inside. As I began to peel off my purse, the man with the mask walked up behind me. In the doorway, he smoothly pulled out the short blade.
“He’s got a knife,” I heard one of the corrections officers say. I turned around.
For about five seconds I stood there, staring, thinking, “Huh, yeah, he does.”
That’s when all the officers I was fortunate to be around jumped into action.
“413A, 413A, 413A” they said, loudly, which is code for “person with a knife.”
Again, without distancing myself from the man, I thought, “I always hear this on the police scanners. But now it’s happening right in front of me.”
The man with the knife didn’t hurt anyone. He was disarmed and taken into a Legal 2000 hold, which is issued when someone is considered dangerous to himself or others. The hold allows a person to be kept for up to 72 hours of psychiatric observation.
I don’t know that I was ever actually scared. But I was definitely shocked. Walking into the jail, my guard was completely down. I didn’t consider the possibility of someone having a weapon, because, well, you can’t bring weapons inside.
But I should have considered it.
The truth is, you never know what is going to happen, wherever you go. And while it’s not healthy to be paranoid about every public situation, it is healthy to be aware of your general surroundings.
“If it doesn’t look right, or if the situation makes you nervous, trust your instincts,” Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Larry Hadfield said this week. Hadfield was the man I was meeting for the tour that day, and he was one of the first officers who responded to the man with the knife.
“I think that’s good advice for anything — driving, walking, anything you do,” Hadfield said.
So whether you’re in a car, browsing a store or walking to get the mail, stay off your cellphone and keep your eyes peeled for anything “out of place,” as Hadfield said.
Maybe, if I wasn’t surrounded by police, the situation would have ended differently.
Vegas Vice appears every other Saturday. Contact Rachel Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5290. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.