He was friendly, social, a hard worker, a valued employee, the father of one, and "the best neighbor a person could have." Some in this area knew him as the friendly technician who did their MRI's. He had worked at Southern Tier Imaging since 2005.
Yesterday morning, he came to work and prevented other employees from entering the imaging office, grabbed a co worker, shook him and claimed there was a bomb inside the building.
Someone called 911.
The first policeman who responded, David Smith, was also a family man. Smith never had a chance to exit his car. An hour later, the 43 year old policeman, an 18 1/2 year veteran of the Johnson City, New York police force, was dead. The officer was killed by the 43 year old MRI technician using Smith's own service gun. Several hours later, the MRI technician was also dead, shot by a backup officer. Smith had fired at him, too, but missed.
On my way to work yesterday morning (I live just outside Johnson City) I was passed by several police cars speeding down Main Street at a high rate of speed. They were followed by four ambulances. I travel near where the shooting took place, and if I had passed by a couple of minutes later I might not have made it to work for hours, as the area was placed under lockdown.
And all I was worried about when I left the house was the slushy/ice conditions from the night before.
Our community of 15,000 in upstate New York is in shock. The last time a Johnson City police officer was killed in the line of duty was in 1925. His car was hit by a train.
We in the Triple Cities all too well remember the American Civic Association shooting of April 3, 2009, which I will blog about on April 3. 14 dead, one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Echoes of the ACA, where a Johnson City man entered an adult immigrant classroom in Binghamton and slaughtered the teacher and a number of her students before ending his own life, must have filled the mind of Officer David Smith as he responded to a worksite incident in what turned out to be the last call he would ever respond to.
Today is the first day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I had planned a light hearted post on a surprise snowstorm we got Sunday night. Instead, I greet new readers and old with a grim post. Today, I have no blogging secrets to share with you. No photos of nature. No complaints about the winter that doesn't want to end. No ponderings about my elderly mother in law, my brother in law who has autism, the United States Civil War, my community garden or the nature of chocolate.
We don't know why technician James Clark did what he did yesterday morning just after 7:03 am. He had no history of unusual behavior.
I wish this was a sick April Fools post. It isn't. We must always expect the unexpected.
All we know is that two local men went to work yesterday morning, and never came home to their families.