Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An unsettling phone call involving a “situation” March 11, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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MY LANDLINE RINGS. It’s a few minutes before 8 a.m. Monday. My heart lurches. Phone calls early in the morning scare me. Usually the caller bears bad news. I hesitate, then pick up the receiver.

A recorded voice from the Rice-Steele County Dispatch Center delivers this message after I am instructed to push one:

Faribault Police Department and SWAT team is currently involved in a situation in the southwest part of Faribault. Citizens are not at risk and are advised to stay out of the area.

Alright then. That’s pretty general and raises all sorts of questions.

First, what’s happening?

Second, where in southwest Faribault and how do I know what area to avoid if I’m not given the location of this “situation”?

Third, if there’s no risk, then why was I called?

Fourth, is it safe for me to go outdoors?

The wooded hillside in my backyard blocks the view of my entire neighborhood.

The wooded hillside in my backyard blocks my view of Wapacuta Park and the adjoining neighborhood.

Nothing appears unusual in my neighborhood. However, because I live in the valley with a wooded hillside abutting a city park in my backyard, I don’t have a full scope view.

I dial the radio to the local station for the morning news. Nothing. I check the police department’s Twitter account. The last update was three days prior.

I hung out the laundry.

I hung out the laundry shortly after receiving the call about a “situation” in southwest Faribault.

I determine it’s safe to hang my laundry in the backyard.

I do.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here for illustration purposes only.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here for illustration purposes only.

Later, I will learn from a Faribault Daily News staff member’s Twitter account, that the “situation” occurred about two blocks from my home by Wapacuta Park. The park up the hill borders my property. Had the wooded hillside not blocked my view, I would have seen the law enforcement presence resulting after a suicidal man reportedly barricaded himself in a home. With a two-month-old. And guns.

Thankfully, the situation was peacefully resolved. About 2 ½ hours after receiving that warning call, my phone rang again with a message that the “situation” had ended.

The presence of SWAT teams in my neighborhood is not new to me. Once, many years ago, when a young man was murdered two blocks away in a drug deal gone bad, a team swept through the area searching for the murder weapon, a knife.

A Rice County sheriff squad and two Faribault police cars follow the SWAT team and ERU vehicle up First Avenue Southwest.

A Rice County sheriff squad and two Faribault police cars follow the SWAT team and ERU vehicle up First Avenue Southwest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2010.

I once saw SWAT and ERU vehicles, followed by police and sheriff cars, proceeding up a side street past my house.

Each time, it was unnerving. Scary.

That brings us back to Monday morning. Should southwest Faribault residents like myself have been given more information? Personally, I would have appreciated a more precise location. But then, again, I understand the reluctance to provide that. Doing so likely would draw unwanted onlookers.

Was the phone call even necessary?

Should the police department have posted something on their Twitter account?

Please share your thoughts.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


23 Responses to “An unsettling phone call involving a “situation””

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Such vague phone calls would do more harm than good, IMHO. You were one of many who could have been very much directly involved and not to share more pertinent info to those living in close proximity to the event is nonsense. Their thoughts(?)……”protocols must be followed” w/o the thought that such general/broad calls don’t make sense!!!! (Especially in this day of “info saturation avenues” that are readily available!!!)

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    I think the warning or notice was enough information as it was. Basically, you were informed just to stay out of the area and to me that means, “keep an eye open” just in case. As you say, more information can cause unwanted attention in the area and even interfere with an ongoing situation. I don’t have a land line or a Twitter account. I often find when something is going on in our town and I hear sirens, or even if I hear about a situation hours later on the TV news, I feel I’m better off blissfully unaware. It is so easy to invite fear into our lives unnecessarily.

    • Ours is a fair-sized community with a population of around 24,000, thus the “southwest” part of town covers a large geographical area. Residents would have no idea what specific area to avoid unless they happened upon the situation.

      Emergency vehicles pass my homes many times a day, sirens blaring, and I have no idea where they are going or for what emergency.

      I question why the call was even made if the general public living in southwest Faribault was not at risk, as stated in the message.

      But I see your view, too, that the warning meant “keep an eye open” just in case. I did not interpret it that way. But perhaps that was the intention.

      I don’t have Twitter or Facebook accounts either, but am able to access them.

  3. That’s a tough question for law enforcement, I believe. People see emergency vehicles and they want to know what’s going on. Law enforcement has a job to do and they don’t need residents stepping into the area to ask questions. How do you keep residents safe and let them know that a situation needs attention? People will complain that they didn’t get enough info, or that they got too much, or that the calls are unnecessary no matter what law enforcement does. Perhaps police departments are struggling with just how to do their notifications in the best possible way as much as we are struggling with the question of what is necessary with these phone calls. A heads up is nice, even if it’s vague, because residents are more cautious, but I agree with the sense that this raises unnecessary fear. In an age when there is so much information available from so many sources, this issue can’t be neatly answered.

  4. 01rena Says:

    The poor man! To be so wrapped in pain, anger/depression, that he does something so desperate and insane! It’s beyond understanding, and forgiving, most would say. But have any one of us been in such a dark and hopeless state that we felt as this poor man obviously feels? Have we ever felt as angry and depressed as he does? I can’t help but feel compelled to pray for this man and his family. His overwhelming madness seeps out onto anyone near or close to him. “Lord, pour forth Your love and mercy upon this man, set him free from the darkness that has taken control of him. Bring him into the light of Your love, through Jesus Christ.” Amen.

  5. SCARY!!! Law enforcement has a fine balance to toe with alerting and protecting and resolving in situations. Sometimes the situation is vague and not sure what direction it is heading in. Sometimes there are prank calls to police about a supposed person with a gun. Sometimes people get curious and show up to gawk. Just go about your business and be aware of your surroundings. Law enforcement will show up and be on hand if the situation escalates. Hopefully not and it gets resolved. It is sad that is how someone has to do a cry for help though. I know I do not know and am not close with my neighbors and we live in a small community of houses too. I am polite and courteous when I am out and about though. I am willing to help someone with a load of groceries, putting their garbage can next to their garage or grabbing a snow shovel.

    Take Care 🙂

  6. Almost Iowa Says:

    Being too specific carries several risks. It may, nay definitely will, attract gawkers. It may, nay definitely will, give a false sense of security to what can become a fluid situation.

    Hopefully the warning will encourage people to turn down their music and televisions, and pay attention to what is going on around them. It might also encourage parents to keep more of an eye on their kids.

  7. Thread crazy Says:

    Tough call and sad situation. To me it seems the individuals and their homes in direct contact (like next door, etc) should be advised immediately. Possibly they were and the message was for surrounding area or within the 2 block radius. I do understand their hesitation to announce much but a statement indicating “Southwest Fairbault” is a broad statement. They could also have included like “South Main” or “1500 block of South Main”, which would have given you a better idea. Sad to think about these type situations but it could have gone the other way. Thank God it did not.

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    That is a frightening situation made even more so by a lack of information. I’m glad the situation was resolved peacefully and the baby came to no harm. I’m not sure if the police here would make calls like that; usually they just cordon off the area and go about their business xx

  9. Dan Traun Says:

    I think Almost Iowa nailed it. Just enough to make your aware, but not enough to draw a crowd to the specific location.

  10. Aaron Says:

    I think they did more than my town would do. I used to live in an ally, a very ghetto one. I seen and heard a lot, but the law enforcement around here sucks, they never did anything. I seen people trading guns outside my house more than once, two women on my street literally prostituted themselves out, I witnesses so many drug deals that it became normal. I informed the police of all these things and all they ever told me is to take down license plate numbers. Sadly the area has never improved, and I can’t even live in my own house.

    • I feel your frustration. Telling someone to simply write down license plate numbers and then seeing zero results is beyond frustrating. I don’t understand. I know that police cannot always share what they are doing behind the scenes. But still, the public needs to feel like something is being done. No one should have to put up with this type of criminal behavior in their neighborhood. I am so sorry. I wish I did not understand what you are experiencing. But I do, from past experience.

      • Aaron Says:

        I don’t really put much faith in law enforcement. I think they do okay sometimes, and there’s a few good people out there doing their best, but overall I just don’t expect much from them. I just sucks that good people who are just trying to live out their lives have to be bothered by the not so good people around them.

      • I totally agree with your last sentence. And given your experiences, I can see how you feel as you do about law enforcement. Don’t give up. I’d like to believe, and I do, that there are many more good cops than bad.

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