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Shot Heard Round The World

By Tina Traster

September 21, 2011 -- I thought the constant whirring of helicopters at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday was a military fleet en route to West Point. But when the relentless droning drew me outside, I realized that a yellow helicopter was making crazy eights over our woods.

“What is going on?” I asked my husband, who was outside tinkering with our chicken coop.

“I don’t know,” he said, without even looking up.

“Doesn’t this concern you?”

He squinted skyward.

“Not really.”

I went inside and called the police. As soon as I mentioned my address, the officer said, “Yes, ma’am, there’s been a shooting on your road, and the suspect has fled into the woods. We’ll be sending out a bulletin to residents on the emergency call list.”

She hung up. I ran outside, palpitating.

“There’s been a shooting on the road. The perp is in the woods and they’re looking for him with helicopters. Oh my God. Can you believe this?”

My husband put down his Japanese saw. He took a moment to consider the circumstances and said, “Well, I’d better come inside. Don’t want the police to mistake me for the shooter.”

I waited for the emergency update, but it never came. Instead, I relied on the Internet and friends in the media for information. It wasn’t long before I learned a man walking his dog around 6 a.m. was shot in the head, back and arm with a .38 caliber handgun.

The shooting took place at a condo complex a half mile down the road. Reports said the shooter and victim lived across the hall from one another. The gun was left at the scene of the crime.

“Must be a dispute over a woman,” my husband said.

“Or a barking dog,” I said.

By now, additional police helicopters joined the search. They flew as low as the tree line, sweeping over our woods, filling the morning air with television-grade crime drama. Though the suspect was at large -- he might have even been right behind our house -- I took comfort in thinking the shooting resulted from neighborly animosity.

Nobody wants to think there’s a raging, random killer on the loose and his target could be anyone. (That said, I do have a couple of neighbors who aren’t too thrilled with me.)

This wasn’t the first violent crime in our Rockland County town in recent history. In one case, a young woman was allegedly slashed by a neighbor/stalker. That man is awaiting trial. In the second instance, a woman was run over and stabbed by an angry estranged husband, who is doing time.

Both incidents were chilling, but I consoled myself with the thought that the attackers knew the victims.

By 1 p.m., the skies grew quiet again. I went back to the Internet. I read that a police bloodhound sniffed out 53-year-old Eric Goods, who was collared in the woods not far from where the shooting took place. The victim, 33-year-old Bronx teacher Edward Kern (who called police after he was shot), was taken to Nyack Hospital with gunshot wounds. Goods was indicted on attempted murder and assault charges this week.

In the days that followed the incident, I scoured reports for anything that would explain what could make a neighbor so angry that he’d resort to shooting someone multiple times in broad daylight at a heavily populated condo complex. A crime of passion? Drugs? I wanted something concrete -- and removed from my life -- to put this violent act in context.

I didn’t get that.

A few days later, the media reported that Kern told investigators he did not know Goods. Goods was facing foreclosure on his condo and had missed a court appearance for a drunken-driving charge the day before the shooting. There was no apparent motive.

My hamlet is a generally sleepy place. We had only just returned from a summer getaway to Montreal and Quebec City for our annual refresher on urban excitement. But it was home in suburbia where the action could be found, where a random, unsettling crime remains unexplained.

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