Dear PoP – I’ve Been Wrestling With This For a While – Do I Testify?

IMG_3468, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

I happened to see a guy with a gun on my block and called the police. I identified the guy for the police from a safe distance after the police arrived. He dumped the gun, but I was able to tell the police where to find it.

My problem: I’m concerned that he or his friends my seek retribution (they know where my apartment is), even though he’s from another side of town. The case now hinges on my testifying that I saw him with the gun, and I have been subpoenaed to testify in front of a Grand Jury. The guy has a criminal record that includes some felony drug dealing, gun charges, etc.

While I know there are two schools of thought:

1. Save your own skin and get amnesia,
2. Testifying will prevent future crime and the chances are low anything will happen you.

What does the PoP community think? Have any of you had to testify? Anyone have any experience with kind of stuff pro or con? What should I do and why?

Thanks PoP and the PoP community!”

This is a truly challenging question. I’m sure many folks will have an initial reaction saying Testify!!! I mean that was my initial reaction when I received this email. The thing is, it is very easy to be cavalier when one is giving advice from the sidelines. I had the unfortunate experience of seeing someone shot before my eyes a few years ago. At that time, an “enforcer” was sent to keep tabs on those talking to the police. A neighbor, who I admire and consider a friend, warned me not to be seen talking to the cops. For me it was easy because I didn’t get a good look at the shooter. So I really had nothing to add. What if I had a clear look at him and he and his crew had a clear look at me? What would I have done? I don’t know. I’d like to think I’d have testified. But I feel it’s a little like war, you have no idea how you’d react unless you actually are in the situation.

I’ve received tons of emails related to crime around DC. Many of them I am not able to publish due to requests from readers or because there is an ongoing investigation. But many of these emails rip my heart out. And I’d like to think that given the opportunity I’d contribute in a positive way to put a criminal away. I say I’d like to think that because I have no idea how I’d react. It’s a bit easier for me as I don’t have a wife or kids. After reading so many personal emails about crime I’ve become a bit of a fatalist. What will be, will be, right? Of course I try to be smart but I know there are certain situations in which shit simply happens and there is nothing you can do about it.

But I guess this is an opportunity to prevent something from happening in the future. I think most would agree that one doesn’t have a gun unless they are willing to use it. As such I’d like to think you will testify. But obviously this is a decision that you have to make on your own. I do hope you testify but I certainly won’t put an exclamation point at the end. Best of luck to you in this truly difficult decision.

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