7. A Father And Husband’s Worst Nightmare
Back in 1995 I lived in a quiet neighborhood in the SF East Bay with my wife of a few years and our 20 month old daughter. We had a small 3 bedroom two story house, and one of our second floor bedrooms doubled as my home office. One quiet Saturday morning I was in my office playing Command and Conquer on my computer with my headphones on, oblivious to the sounds of the outside world.
I’d probably been playing for an hour or so when, during one particularly quiet moment, I faintly heard my wife cry out downstairs. Knowing that she was down there with our daughter, I pulled my headphones off to see if she needed help with anything. Until the day I take my last breath, I’ll never forget what I heard when I pulled them off. I heard the voice of a man, with a thick Mexican accent, shout, “Quit yelling bitch, or I’ll fucking cut your head off and fuck your fucking daughter!” My daughter was crying hysterically.
After that, it was like some switch was thrown in me and my higher brain just shut off. I wasn’t making decisions. I just acted. I don’t even remember pulling the .45 from the lockbox in my desk, I just remember walking down the stairs slowly, scared as hell that I was going to see my wife dead when I reached the bottom. Instead, when I reached the bottom, I saw my wife half naked, bent over the couch, bleeding from somewhere in her upper body, while being raped from behind by some burly guy with a knife in his hand. He wasn’t TRYING to rape her, he was in the middle of the deed and was probably nearing climax.
I never said a word to the guy. Not while I was upstairs, not while I was coming down the stairs, and not when I walked into the room. His back was to me, so he had no idea I was even standing there.
He was holding his knife in his right hand, so that was the arm I grabbed with my left when I pulled him off. He spun away from her and me with a confused look on his face, and I shot him square in the chest at nearly point blank range before he had a chance to say a single word. His face went pale as he went onto one knee, and I fired twice more. One hit his neck, and the second missed entirely. I was told later that the first shot was the fatal one.
What happened next has always been a point of shame for me. The only thought going through my head at that point was that I couldn’t let my daughter watch this man die. Without even checking on my wife, I scooped my daughter up and walked out my front door. As I walked out to my driveway, I saw one of my neighbors standing there staring at my house (he’d heard the gunshots). The poor guy went pale when he saw me walk out, and I vaguely remember asking him to hold my daughter while I went and checked on my wife. The neighbor asked me if I’d shot her, and I told him, “No, I shot the man who was raping her.” I didn’t realize at the time that I had the guys blood spray covering half my body, and that I looked like something out of a horror movie. I then handed him my daughter and my gun (I also have no idea why I gave him my gun), and went back into my house to help my wife.
The police and DA gave me some flak about the exact circumstances of the shooting (one of the detectives told me that it was more of an “execution” than a “defense”), but in the end they declined to pursue any charges. The man who attacked her turned out to be a guy with serious mental issues who had been previously convicted of two violent rapes, one of which was against a 9 year old girl. Under California’s then-new 3 Strikes law, he’d have gone to prison for life if I hadn’t killed him.
As for recovery; I like to think that I’ve recovered from it, but it certainly induced a few behavioral changes. To this day, for example, I can’t wear headphones that block out background noise. Even after years of counseling, over-ear and noise cancelling headphones give me panic attacks because I can’t hear what’s happening around me. I found out later that he’d been raping my wife for nearly 10 minutes before I heard him, and that he’d actually told my wife THREE TIMES that he was going to rape my daughter when he was finished with her. I was sitting 30 feet away and had no idea it was going on, and that fact has fucked with me for years.
My wife had a much worse time of it though. In addition to two stab wounds to her shoulder and upper arm, and the bruising and injuries from the forceful rape, she ended up having a mental break and took years to really recover. For the first 6 months, she absolutely could not be in any room by herself. For more than a year, she couldn’t be in a house by herself (and she NEVER reentered the house where this happened). For several years, she’d break out in a sweat when she heard men with deep hispanic accents talking, because she’d hear his voice again. Even now, decades later, she starts shaking if you try to talk to her about it. She’s fine in every other sense, but even discussing it freaks her out.