New Yorker Article on Accidental Killing

Several months ago the writer Alice Gregory posted on this site her interest in talking with CADIs. Many of you responded by generously sharing your stories and insights. Her article on the experience of accidental killing and the lack of resources to support CADI’s (my acronym for those who have “caused accidental death or injury”) has been published in this week’s New Yorker magazine:

I think the article shows great compassion and insight, and I hope it will make a difference by raising awareness and motivating some psychotherapists, trauma specialists, or others to focus on this neglected group.  It is already helping individuals (and their friends and family members) struggling with the experience of accidental killing. For instance, the article has dramatically increased traffic to this website. If you see more comments than usual showing up on the site, that is why.

The vast majority of comments I’ve received about this article, and other published work on CADIs, have been appreciative and supportive. A number of people have written to me about urban planning, public policy, engineering, and other programs and interventions intended to prevent car vs. pedestrian, car. vs. bicycle or car vs. car collisions. I will be looking into these programs more and will post about some of the more promising efforts. If you know about this, please write to me and share your experience or recommendations.  I’m also interested in efforts to prevent other kinds of accidents, including workplace accidents, gun accidents, boating accidents, and the like.

Of course I strongly believe that CADI’s are deserving of compassion and support.  With that comes an acceptance of responsibility and accountability.  As awareness and understanding increase in our society, I believe that people will be more willing to invest in whatever steps are needed to reduce the number of accidents — better roads, bike lanes, improved lighting, new technologies, and so forth.  This will make our world safer and, over time, the number of CADIs will decline.

4 thoughts on “New Yorker Article on Accidental Killing”

  1. I read the article in the New Yorker and found it fascinating. At that point contemplating what it would be like to be responsible for an accidental death was as an abstraction. How ironic that not a month later I became a CADI.

    A week prior I was in San Francisco with my girlfriend for surgery on her pituitary to cure Cushing’s disease. She flew home a week later and within a couple days ended up in ICU for 5 days to treat a critical sodium deficiency, SIADH. On a Friday evening she was released and, after a week of hospital food and no shower she was desperate for some comfort food and asked me to stop a pick up a pizza from our favorite pizzeria in Tacoma on the way home. After picking up the pizza I pulled out onto a major 5 lane road in a commercial district to head home, less than 10 minutes away. On the road ahead, after dark in a light rain we saw a man jaywalking across all 5 lanes so I slowed down, and, as we both watched him walk off the road we heard a loud thud and saw a woman’s body fly off the front of my pickup and crash to the pavement. As it turned out, she was 69 years old, the wife of the man we watched crossing the street and she must have left well after him since neither of us saw her in the road. She must have run across to catch him though one of the inexplicable things was that I drive a 3 ton, late model Dodge 4WD pickup, had all my lights on, was going under the speed limit and she ran in front of me–I hit her dead center in the middle of the truck so she must have been running. She was pronounced dead 30 minutes later. After a 3 hour investigation I was released (I had to convince the police to let my girlfriend be picked up and taken home–she was still wearing her ICU wrist band). The detective and lead police investigator said the only crime committed was them jaywalking, less than a hundred feet from a crosswalk installed to prevent just this kind of thing from happening. The detective said people don’t want to walk two minutes out of their way to use it. And, within the last year another woman was killed in almost exactly the same spot doing exactly the same thing.

    What is true it that life can change completely in the blink of an eye. Life is like one thing one minute and a minute later it becomes something completely different. I am thankful beyond words that I was held blameless, but I regularly shudder when the image of the woman flying through the air and Jeanne’s blood-curdling scream run through my mind.

    I am so very grateful for this site…

  2. Let me begin by saying my accident happened about 30 years ago. It was an accidental shooting. And it damaged me for life. Til this day I have guilt, shame and still visit a very dark place from time to time. And with that I shut down, or lash out with anger and make very poor decisions. Now let me get to what actually took place. It was spring break and one of my best friends was home from college. We decided to meet up and catch up. After meeting up and enjoying each other’s company, we decided to visit a friend at her house. I was good friends with her brother as well. To make a long story short, he was advit hunter. After we arrived and talked for a bit, I decided to show my friend the guns in the gun case. I’ve handled them before and they were always locked in the case plus with trigger locks. I proceeded to unlock the case and trigger lock to a 10-gauge pump shotgun to show my friend. Mind you these guns were never loaded….so I assumed. Well I was wrong. I had the gun cradled in my arms as I pumped it and then pulled the trigger. The gun went off and hit my friend in the stomach 6 feet away. I went into total shock. However I did snap out of it to grab some rags to plug the entrance hole with my finger and the exit hole with my fist. Then yelling to the girl in the house to call 911. Blood was everywhere and my friend was in my arms moaning and his eyes rolling back in his head. Don’t know if you are all aware of this but the insides of a person doesn’t have a particularly good smell. In fact it’s horrible. Til this day I still smell and taste his blood. When the police and paramedics arrived it was decided he needed to be airlifted out. I was put in the back of a police car to watch all while the police officer was saying and I quote, ”see what you did to your buddy…you wanted to kill him didn’t you!!!” . Come to find out the girl’s younger brother had loaded the gun with pumpkin ball without telling anyone. Out of the 10 guns in the case, that was the only one loaded and that’s the one I picked up. So next up was the police interrogation. That was just as bad as the shooting itself. After almost 10 hours of constant questioning I finally broke and said yes I wanted to kill him…now can I wash my hands? They made me sit there covered from head to toe with my friends blood and insides. It was brutal. And they, the police broke me and I signed the confession admitting guilt…JUST TO WASH MY HANDS. Luckily it was videotaped and my lawyer viewed it. He told me we could either she or let it go because now they determined it to be an accidental shooting. I said I can’t go through all this again…just let it go. So that’s what we did. Now I had to deal with whether my friend was going to live or die. I layed in bed with a loaded handgun under my pillow waiting on the call. Didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t sleep. I told everyone..if he dies, then I die. I was at rock bottom. Then the call came 5 days later…he was going to pull through…I was elated. But little did I know what was to follow. Years and years of guilt, heartbreak, sorrow, drug abuse, drinking, bad therapy, misdiagnosis, anger, depression, bad decisions. All because of one mistake. And to this day I’m still damaged. I’m hoping by talking to all of you and getting my story out I can begin to get this under control. There is so much more to this story but that’s enough for now. I think I can better relate to someone who has been through something this traumatic then anyone else. If any of you would like to contact me please feel free

  3. I recently read the article, The Sorrow and Shame of the Accidental Killer, in the New Yorker (Sept 18 issue) about your experience and those of others .
    The article closely reflected my experience as a restorative practitioner working with cases of accidental death or other cases where serious harm was caused. In the majority of these cases, if the parties agree to a restorative process , the result is healing and often transformative.
    I wrote a letter to the magazine in response to the article but whether they publish it or not I’m not sure. If you’d like to see my response I’m happy to send it to you.
    You have mentioned restorative justice in some of your blogs.
    RJ offers a powerful and effective way for people to deal with these kinds of trauma by tapping into people’s inner resources of courage, strength and compassion, and by speaking to their common humanity. It’s not appropriate for every situation or every person and of course has to be engaged with with utmost sensitivity but for those who are open to it can be a liberating and powerful process.
    Having recently relocated back to NY from the United Kingdom where there is a move toward offering people in these circumstances the option of a restorative process, I am interested in advocating for something similar here.

  4. In 1950 in Golf Manor a neighborhood of Cincinnati where our author had her accident, my brother Bobby was hit and killed as he walked in front of a city bus which was being used as a school bus. There was no law against this at the time. My parents never had ill feelings about the man who hit Bobby. My sibs and I have rarely talked about how the man must have felt, how it affected his life. Thank you to Ms. Gray and the New Yorker who, on the week of Yom Kippur has published a sensitive and necessary story. Blessings to families who have lost and ones who created the loss…..

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