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Out of the Frying Pan and Under Fire

520 days ago today, Payton Benson, 5, caught a bullet through one of her walls while she was eating breakfast. That bullet was one of 20 fired by three gunmen more than a city block away from that baby's home. She died at the hospital.


That baby's home was 15 blocks from our home.

The neighborhood wherein this beautiful baby died is not quite distant, but not quite close to us. Ruth was five at the time as well. The pain was still real. We felt for those parents. We hugged the Princesses close and said prayers for the family.

Then gunshots peeled out from less than a block away from our home.

It was a cold night. Ruth was up late. She was worried about something. She had been up too late reading and needed help getting back to sleep.

"Can you sing me a song, Daddy?" she asked. She climbed too slowly up the ladder to her top bunk, but she made it. I sang to her and we chatted. We discussed what she was reading. We discussed why it was important to go to bed.

"And you know what?" I said.


"It's also important because-"

Five sharp cracks went off outside in quick succession. Five reports bounced off of the houses along the street out front.

"What was that?" Ruth said.

"Let me go check," I said. I headed downstairs. I knew what the sounds were. I just didn't want her to stress.

I went to the front window and looked out. Nobody was on the street in front. The shots had come from the northeast.

I dialed 911.

"Police, fire or medical?" a voice asked.

"Police," I said. I described the situation.

After the call, I looked out the window.

"Dad?" Ruth said from upstairs. She was still in bed.

I waited another 30-45 seconds, then headed back upstairs. Just as I hit the top step, I heard the police helicopter overhead.

Wow. That was fast. They answered my phone call with a helicopter.

I shared this with Ruth and she also thought it was cool.

"What was that noise?" she asked.

"Gunshots," I said.

"Why gunshots?"

"Because some people just can't sort out their differences with words. They think they have to use guns to do it," I answered.
I looked out the upstairs window. The chopper was spotlighting around the homes in the neighborhood.

Ruth felt safe, so she went to sleep. I went downstairs and stepped outside. The neighbor just a couple houses up was in his yard.
"You hear the shots?" I asked.

"Five of 'em. A car just drove by with two flat tires on one side," he said.

An officer showed up moments later. We directed him where to go. I went back inside and started to stew.

The weapon fired was a semiautomatic handgun, most likely 9mm or .40 caliber in size. Let's assume 9mm.

The shots were fired at or near apartments 290 feet (about 100 yards) away, as the bullet flies. Google Earth told me so.

A jacketed, 124 grain, 9mm bullet has an average muzzle velocity of around 1126 ft. /second. Had one of those five rounds strayed, it would have taken a quarter of a second to hit my house. A fraction of a second more, and it would have fragmented at or passed through one of our walls. A fraction of a second more, and someone could have been hurt, or killed.

15 blocks. 100 yards. As that night wore on, I felt strongly that, as fast as those bullets travel, they might as well have pulled the trigger on my doorstep.

I stayed up and talked to Meredith. I told her the story. The decision was unanimous.

Time to move.

We have been working really hard and making serious progress on our debts. The credit card is done. Meredith's student loan is all but paid off. The neighborhood felt great. Work was great. Everything was heading in the right direction. The work was hard, but we were reaping the benefits.

Those five, 124 grain reasons to move changed everything. Since then, we have been engaged in storm-cloud mode. We've been preparing to sell the home. It has taxed us. Stressed us. It saps our time, energy and money. I'm delaying painting right now so I can type this. We haven't been able to save anything. We also got the bill for Ruth's surgery ($6,000+). We're not drowning, but wow. Life sure does happen, doesn't it?

"But RI," you might say, "you don't have to move. Anywhere you go, there will be gunfire and death. Maybe you should stay and be a positive influence on the neighborhood."
We've thought about that. And that is a real truth. But time and time again, as we prayerfully considered the decision, the fact continued to surface that one of our babies could be maimed or killed in less than a second due to a single stray bullet. More bullets have been flying nearby and the frequency seems to be increasing.

The chances of an accident, although slim, were motivating enough for us to decide that this was correct.

So, sorry for not posting as much. I deliver pizzas, come home and do chores. I don't want to write. Or I do want to write, but would rather sleep.
We're almost done, but it is still high stress. I'll still try to share uplifting things on the Facebook page, but expect less entries over the next few weeks. Selling a house is intense.



  1. We support your decision. We support your family. You must prayerfully listen to the small voice. We love you and want to keep you safe. If we haven't mentioned it for awhile, you are always welcome to join us in Utah. Love you.

    1. Thanks, Diane. We're staying in our ward for now. We do need to visit, though.

  2. Were I in the same situation, I would most definitely have moved as well. It's scary to think what can happen anywhere, at anytime - even in your own home. It's great to be a positive influence in a neighborhood, but the safety of your family comes first.

    A similar event happened in a neighborhood close to mine a couple of years ago. A girl, I think she was around 10, was killed by a stray bullet that came through the window and hit her while she sat on the couch. How terrible is that? Yikes.

    On a slightly happier note, I love your writing. I completely understand being too tired to write, but I hope it's worth it for you.

    Best wishes,

    Edge of Night


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