We went down to Virginia to visit diaspora's parents this Christmas. The stay was relatively uneventful, it was good to see folks again and get a break from Ottawa winter, all about as you'd expect.
On the way back, though, we ran into a traffic jam along I-95 around Stafford VA. A couple of cop cars went by on the shoulders, so we figured there would be a delay because of an accident, par for the course, no biggie. A few more cop cars went by, which was a bit weird, but you know, maybe just an overreaction or something.
Then we drove past an accident where it looked like a simple rear-ending, pulled off on the left, with a couple of police cars, and things opened up for a bit, although I suspected that that was a secondary accident caused by an inattentive driver.
Sure enough, traffic jammed up again, and yet more police zoomed by, driving down the paved shoulders at speed with sirens going.
A helicopter hovered in the sky over the highway ahead, and stayed there.
Traffic came to a standstill. Police cars just kept coming. A couple of fire vehicles and one ambulance went by. Still more police, including an investigation unit truck.
We were completely stopped for about an hour and a half. Cars started turning back and driving back down the shoulders. Eventually, a state trooper came and told us to do the same, and then we were directed to cross over to the other side and redirected down a country highway (US-1, the Jefferson Davis Highway).
The country highway was crawling, unable to cope with the huge volume of traffic. We stopped for lunch and gas after another hour and a half, and heard that not just an accident, but a shooting was involved in whatever incident was delaying us.
After lunch, I asked a trooper directing traffic, and he said that the highway was reopened, so we escaped the rest of the detour crawling down US-1. If he hadn't said that, we might well have turned back, because the detour looked like hours more.
We went back to the Interstate, which itself took about twenty minutes, and once there, waited about fifteen minutes more for traffic to start flowing again. A little ways down the road, we drove by the investigations unit truck and a few police cars, and there was spill absorbent scattered across the highway.
We only found out the rest of the story the next morning, because by the time we got back to Ottawa, it was about 4 a.m., about four and a half hours after our expected arrival time.
Googling the news, it looks like a man shot his wife and then led the police on a chase onto I-95, in the course of which he tried to shoot at police. The minor accident we passed first seems to have been a result of one such attempt, where the officer ducked just in time: the bullet was retrieved from the driver's headrest. Eventually, the fugitive hit a guardrail and rolled his SUV, and shot himself. He was taken to hospital by helicopter, but died there.
The police handled the whole thing very well, as best I can tell. No police fired weapons, despite the fact that this person was shooting at them. Only the man's wife and he were killed or seriously injured, and they even tried everything they could to save him. Police don't always live up to their mission--none of us do--but their handling of this incident was a pretty good example of how they can maintain lawfulness even under extreme circumstances.
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