Clinic Stories

All's Well That Ends Well

As Thanksgiving dinner ended, my daughter Gwen, in her second year of college at Temple University in North Philadelphia, pulled out her computer and announced - “I wrote everything down so I didn't forget anything” - and launched into a story. Let me preface by saying that North Philadelphia is very unsafe.

“Two Saturdays nights ago I was walking home from a party with Matt (just a guy she knew). Someone walked up behind us very close, then moved beside us, and pointed a gun and said 'Give me your money.'” They countered that they didn't have any money but he pointed the gun at my daughter and demanded her wallet. He took it and asked why there was no money in it. She said she had her purse stolen before and only carried money when she needed it. He put her wallet into his back pocket.

He pointed the gun at Matt and insisted “Give me your money” “Why should I?” Matt asked. “Because I said so.” “That doesn't sound like a very good reason to me.” “Don't be stupid, give me your money.” Taunting him, Matt said “I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll give you one dollar.”

Matt pulled one dollar from his wallet, returned his wallet, then deliberately folded the dollar in half, then again and again and again. He gently held the small green square out and the mugger slowly reached toward him and took it. Focused on the bill he did not see Matt move his foot behind the mugger's ankle. Matt pushed him over, pulled the gun out of his hand and gave it to Gwen. Then the fun began.

Pinned to the ground and on the wrong end of a gun he pleaded “Please let me go, I have prior arrests.” Gwen took the opportunity to retrieve her wallet from his pocket. They were not sure what street they were on so Gwen stopped the first car. He refused to get involved and drove off. Matt and the mugger were in the street and traffic was partially blocked but no one would help. The beeping and screaming intensified until people came out of their homes and formed a mob. “Don't hurt him” they screamed at Matt but no one would help or call the police. Gwen said that being two white kids in a sea of angry blacks was much scarier than having a gun pointed at her.

Finally a white female student living nearby came out with two male friends (I saw their pictures, they were imposing looking guys) and called the police. Within two minutes three police cars arrived and the mob vanished. Gwen, Matt, the mugger (Daniel), and one of the white guys went to the police station. As they entered Daniel was shouting, “I wasn't trying to rob them!” Unfortunately four people reporting an armed robbery turned, pointed and said “That's him!”

Daniel was charged with 6 counts of armed robbery and along with gun related charges, 36 counts in all. With two prior drug convictions he took a plea for a very long time in jail.

The next week Gwen called me. She received,a letter from a victim's advocacy group, asking if she lost money or needed treatment or therapy. (note: Gwen is now a psychiatric nurse practitioner.) She did not understand why they were sending her such a thing and asked if she needed to fill it out. I told her to throw it away. Rather than being harmed, Gwen was empowered by the experience.

Everything was wrong with her story except for the ending.

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