LeDuff: A Combat Marine learns the real war is at home in Detroit

September 11, 2019, 10:05 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

My buddy took a blade to his heart sac last Saturday night, a sixteenth of an inch from his left ventricle.

A drop closer and his heart wouldn't be pumping, says the doctor at Detroit Receiving who, you might imagine, has some experience with bleeding left ventricles.

Someone managed to wave down a police cruiser, a near-miracle since so few are downtown.

My buddy is a private security guard at the American Coney Island, where I also work. It's in the heart of downtown, where Michigan Avenue meets Lafayette Boulevard.

My buddy took the knife outside on the city sidewalk. His attacker was some creep from the suburbs who looked like he was flying high on dope. The creep was harassing some women. My buddy stepped in to break it up. Chivalry is not dead, but my buddy got shivved for his good manners.

Someone managed to wave down a police cruiser, a near-miracle since so few are downtown. Officers caught the creep. Respect to those who do the job.

Life-saving lift

Other cops put my buddy in their squad car and rushed him to Receiving. Probably saved his life, the doctor says. Who knows how long it would have taken for an ambulance to get there?

My buddy's going to make it.

That's a dirty little secret in Detroit. Cops don't wait for the ambulance. Don't trust it to show up. It's perpetual conditioning.

So they throw people in the back of their squad cars with shank wounds to their left ventricles. That's the culture around here. I wonder whose job it is to mop out the police cars?

My buddy, I should tell you, is a former combat Marine who did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq – very heavy places indeed. He didn't suffer so much as a paper cut in those hellholes. But then he comes home to Detroit and catches a blade in the chest. 

It seems the war goes on. Except it's right here at home.

'You don't work this corner'

A lot of “Comeback Detroit” type boosters call me funny little names, these days. They say I'm toxic. They call me a bitch and complainer. They say I've got it out for the mayor and the chief.

What would you know, I tell them.

You don't work this corner. You don't see the lunatics skulking around. You don't know that police cars are rarely seen patrolling the city center where crowds of people congregate. You don't get put on hold when you call 911. You don't live in the neighborhoods. You don't read the crime data or the budgets.

According to independent audits of the city's finances, Detroit is spending nearly $50 million less on public safety (inflation-adjusted) than it did the year of the bankruptcy when we took all those cuts to public safety. There are one-third fewer firefighters manning rigs on any given day, according to the union. In July alone, it was published in the police officers' union newspaper that 33 patrol cops had resigned. The pay and morale are miserable. 

Scenes of the recent crimes on West Lafayette Boulevard downtown. (Photo: Google Street View)

So every time we take a public dollar and give it to a cheapskate billionaire sports team owner who does not share the profits, we get less public safety and more worn-out beat cops beating it for better-paying jobs in the suburbs.

Congratulations on another 100-loss season, Chris Ilitich. And don't get me started on the Ford family – Same Old Lions. Don't worry, both families turn handsome profits.

More drama on West Lafayette 

A week before my buddy got stabbed, a lunatic wielding a box cutter put a rock through the plate glass window at Lafayette Coney Island next door.

The lunatic was put on the ground by federal agents who happened to be eating nearby. They called the Detroit police, whose headquarters are just three blocks away.

After waiting 20 minutes, one incredulous fed said: “The police response in this town is shameful.”

“Terrible,” said another.

Eventually a squad car arrived, but only after a personal call to a sergeant. And he came from headquarters.

My pals who work the grill at Lafayette put a little beat-down on the lunatic. Why not? They know police aren't coming. When the police eventually did arrive, they arrested the boys from Lafayette. They spent three days in jail and were released without charges.

“What the fuck bro?” one of them said to me the following Monday. “They said it was a mistake. How about that?”

Yes. How about that?

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