Gunshots in Alameda

In which a DHS special agent almost maims one of us

This is a true story, the names have not been changed to protect the negligent.

The names have also not been mentioned

This is a story of how we had a bullet fly through our aparment. At the time, we lived in Alameda, California, which can be described as “a sleepy island city frozen in time in the 1950s.” It’s a very cute little city, which, despite its proxmitiy to Oakland, is generally extremely peaceful and quiet.

Despite that, we had some issues with our next-door neighbors; they reported us for loud music several times, even though they liked to be extremely loud themselves.

This incident occured in 2014; so why write about it now? It’s one of the more interesting things to happen to me in a while, even if it had to potential to be extremely tragic. But really, how many people can claim that they’ve had a bullet fired through their house or apartment?

On July 23, 2014 my ex and I were sitting in our apartment living room playing video games with each other. We sat on opposite walls, with our backs to each other. This was a fairly typical night for us, until…

Around 9 or 10 that night, we hear a very loud POP. My first thought is that my computer blew something, like a power supply or whatever; I guess I was thinking it was like the ballasts that would sometimes blow in old fluorescent lights in high school.

The next parts happen in extremely quick succession, so it’s hard to document coherently. Immediately after the noise, I see two of the cats freak out and there is white dust settling in the room. I look down and see a hole in the wall a few feet from my computer. Michelle freaks out, so I jump up and verify that she is ok. She said that she felt whatever it was go by her foot, so I check her out. Her foot’s fine and intact

Elapsed time after the POP is probably 20 seconds at most, maybe closer to 10, and I have still have no real idea what is happening.

After looking at her foot I noticed a hole in the wall under her desk. It lines up perfectly with the hole in the other wall by my computer. That’s when it dawns on me: a fucking bullet just flew through our apartment. Still not sure of the details, I grab a flashlight and check under her desk. I can see through it and into the bedroom. Neat.

I quickly take inventory of the situation:

  • 4 bullet holes
  • One murdered bookshelf
  • All cats are fine, if somewhat freaked out
  • Neither I nor Michelle are hurt
  • Nothing expensive was hit

Conclusion: nothing I really care about was affected. Ok. By now I am coursing with adrenaline. Elapsed time since the POP: probably around 60-90 seconds.

So by now I realize that the bullet came from the apartment next door (or at least through it), and I decide that I’m going to confront them! What a marvelous idea, just dickfirst into an unknown situation, but one that involves at least one firearm.

I actually wait one or two minutes to calm down moderately (doesn’t work) and go next door and bang on their door.

The ridiculous conversation is as follows:

me: “did you just shoot into our apartment?”

her: “yes”

me: “…with a gun?”

her: “yes, I’m a cop” (she then proceeds to show me her badge, not that I would know what a real one looks like)

Her boyfriend/husband/fuckbuddy/whatever joins her at the door, and she explains that it was an accidental discharge. They come over to my apartment and I show them the damage in all the walls. We unscrew the bookshelf and move it to see the damage and try to find where the bullet ended up. As they search outside for the bullet, I find it on the floor behind book case. It looks like a hollow point.

When they come back in, I hand over the bullet and ask if it is really a hollow point. Yes, it’s a hollow point .45. In other words, had it’s course been an inch to the left Michelle would be missing a foot.

I am still so full of adrenaline I could probably flip a car over.

We stand around freaked out and talking, “thank god no one was hurt” etc. We go back and forth about what to do; I don’t particularly want the apartment complex in my apartment due to having well over the approved number of cats, and they obviously don’t want this incident to be reported since she would be in trouble with her job. You know, for negligent fucking discharge of a firearm.

At this point I say we can find someone (like a general contractor) to fix the wall; I did not say that I wouldn’t report the incident, just that I would have it fixed. She and Michelle trade contact info. We mill around for a few more minutes, “thank god no one was hurt and thanks for not reporting us” etc, and they leave.

15 or 20 minutes later I am calmed down enough to use the phone. I actually decide to call the police and report it, but like usual I have no reception whatsoever in Alameda. And Verizon doesn’t do wifi phone calls, so I’m fucked.

I go back in and try to relax, but it ultimately won’t be a very restful night for us. I look at the business card the lady gave us and holy shit if it isn’t from the DHS. She’s not a cop, she’s a fucking special investigator for the Department of Homeland Security. I’m suddenly very glad the call didn’t go through; do I really want to report her and get on some list with the DHS? I’m not a criminal and have next to nothing to hide, but I also don’t want to be on the radar of The Man.

The next day, I talk to one of the lawyers on the legal team at work. Mostly I want to know what my actual options are in this case. Can the cops even do anything about the DHS? Should I report them? Should I flee for my life and change my identity?

While he can’t give me actual legal advice, he told me what he’d do. File a police report and hope I don’t get a one way ticket to gitmo. It takes us a few days to figure out what we are going to do; we consult with people we trust to see what their advice is.

Eventally we decide what we’re doing. I am extreeeeemly averse to confrontations, so I dread what’s coming. We knock on their door and ask to talk. They invite us into their place, and we sit on the couch. We tell them that we won’t report them, but think they should do the right thing themselves.

They explain that it was an accident (no shit), that when she loaded the magazine into the gun and released the slide, the pistol “slam fired.” If you noticed in the pictures, the holes were about 30 inches off the ground. My guess is she was sitting on the couch or chair fucking around with her gun when it went off. I suppose it’s possible the Glock slamfired, but after 10 seconds of google research it sounds really really rare.

As we leave their apartment, I say to them “just think about what you would do if the situation were reversed” and they hand Michelle two bottles of (I am told) shitty wine.

A few days later I purchase a new bookshelf/nightstand and some stuff to patch all of the holes in the walls. I attempt to get the paint matched, but of course it didn’t exactly match. It’s probably good enough that a normal person who didn’t know wouldn’t notice, but the mismatch bugs me.

They didn’t give me money for the repairs or new bookshelf, and I didn’t press the issue because, again, horribly averse to confrontations. And I doubt they filed any paperwork or reported the misfire.

We never really speak to them after that other than the super awkward “hey” as we cross paths in the hallway. I’m sure they breathe a huge sigh of relief because they really… dodged that bullet… so to speak.

Some things I learned and/or would do differently:

  • I wouldn’t charge over to their apartment right away like an amped up moron
  • I would absolutely not give back the bullet; we earned that bullet in my opinion, and it would be useful for the next item
  • I believe that I would roll the dice and report them to the cops; if the DHS came down on me I’d hire the ACLU or something
  • I’d collect my fucking money for damages

Luckily, when I moved out of that apartment the complex didn’t notice the patch jobs, and I got quite a bit of my extremely hefty security deposit back. So I guess I did a good enough job patching the holes up.