Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

I am a huge believer in fate. Things happen for a reason, not just by coincidence. Though we cannot always understand why certain things happen when they do, there eventually comes a point when the puzzle pieces fit together and it all makes sense – it’s an “aha” moment.

My daughter was t-boned by a police cruiser the night after Christmas. Luckily, she was not injured though the car sustained a good deal of damage. So did the sheriff deputy’s ego.  She was on her way to meet friends for dinner, driving cautiously, doing all the right things. The deputy tried to make a left-hand turn into the back parking lot of the Greenville Law Enforcement Center. He didn’t see her coming in the right-hand lane when the driver in the left-hand lane thought he was doing him a favor by stopping. It was an accident, but she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or was she?

When I arrived on the scene and saw the amount of damage to the car, a cold chill ran down my spine. But later on when I had time to reflect, I realized that had she gone through that intersection just two seconds sooner, she could have been seriously injured. The front end of the car took the impact – a two-second difference and the impact would have been right into the driver’s side door. So, if this accident was meant to happen, was she really in the right place at the right time to come out unscathed?
On January 14, Wesley Swilling, 31, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. At 3AM, he was in the parking lot of that same LEC. It wasn’t the civilian parking lot; it was the parking lot in the back of the building, one that is clearly marked for LEC personnel use only.  According to the news accounts, he threw a baseball at a city police officer heading to his car. That officer summoned the attention of a sheriff’s deputy sitting in a nearby patrol car doing paperwork. Together they took a stance and drew guns when they saw a weapon. By the officers’ accounts, Wes came toward them in a threatening manner and stated he was going to kill them. Feeling their lives were indeed in danger, they fired. Wes Swilling died amid a hail of bullets, seven of them hitting him.

The “weapon” found near Wes was a glue gun, though it had been taped and manipulated to look more like a real gun. It was a rainy, foggy night making visibility poor. Wes was dressed in dark clothing. There are only three people who will ever know the exact circumstances of that night, though many assumptions will be made. If Wes Swilling was on a mission to end his own life, he chose the right place at the right time to achieve that goal. Can we conclude the two officers were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Though an investigation concludes they followed proper police protocol, as human beings do they question whether they could have handled things differently?
I cannot presume to know what was in Wes Swilling’s head the morning he headed to the LEC parking lot. But I do believe I know where he may have been emotionally. Some of us have been in that place before, the corner where your demons push you so tightly you believe there is no way out. Too often it results in a tragedy with a rippling effect that touches many lives.

If these words cross the path of anyone in Wes’s family, please accept them in the spirit in which they are written.  Though I did not know Wes personally, I am close to many people who knew him well – including both my daughters who were fellow classmates. My heart is heavy along with yours at your loss. Those who knew him have told me of his sweet, caring personality. It was a vibrant life lost much too early.
There are many people who loved Wes Swilling, his family and friends alike. I hope they are able to find comfort in their memories of him. And I hope that Wes is now in the right place at the right time to have found his peace. God rest his sweet soul.

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