My family has struggled mightily with the suicide of our clan’s ‘youngest brother’, my one and only little brother: JJ (1981-1999).
After learning of our brother’s tragic suicide and the horrid details surrounding his final hours alive, we, as a family – were forced to accept several realities that were likely the most unwelcome any of us had seen previously. Our departed sibling not only killed himself; he also killed a female police officer in the process.This was something that made the entire situation of his suicide, the aftermath, the social stigmas, the judgment of others, etc. – much, much more complicated.
My brother had been off of his medication for some time, and had been playing the cat and mouse with me as well; I had not been successful in locating him for several weeks (a task that was typically hard enough by itself, as I was still a hostage to The Ripper). His ex-girlfriend (who has become part of our family since that time) had just told him that she was pregnant with his child, despite their recent breakup; he was likely spinning out of control for many reasons, but this put him over the edge.
JJ never thought much of himself, in contrast to what he actually was…to me, at least.
Me and JJ, back in the day
I can imagine that finding out he was not only going to become a father, but a father to a child he would undoubtedly anticipate being kept separate from, for whatever reasons (that’s just how he was); I can imagine how big of self-fulfilled Failure this made him perceive himself as having become rather quickly, as a result of these thoughts. He didn’t pick up his gun and just shoot himself, and that was it…
He found his way to his very best friend Jeremy’s house (Jeremy is the next best thing to a little brother for me – we all grew up together), and honks the horn out front. When Jeremy goes outside, he sees JJ in an unfamiliar truck and asks him wtf is going on; he says that JJ was in disarray emotionally, and he obviously needed some support. He gets in the truck, likely against his better judgment, and agrees to ride with JJ to “SouthWest for a while”. During the drive, the police take chase and JJ leads a high speed pursuit through the massive clusterfuck of the city’s expressways – picking up more and more units along the way, of course.
Inside the stolen truck, Jeremy is trying to calmly talk to him and get him to pull over so that they don’t get in any more trouble than they’ve already found – to no avail. JJ is beside himself; not making sense and very agitated; Jeremy feels afraid of him for the first time on all of their years together as friends. They wind down into the loading dock behind a Wal-Mart, where Jeremy assumes JJ will finally park the car and get out. Somehow, a police cruiser had slipped in behind them in the dock, against the roll up door, unseen by either of them. JJ is still talking gibberish and making no sense – completely embodying a maniac. They become surrounded by a barricade of police cars and trucks one by one as they arrive to the loading dock.
I’m very unclear of the details, and always have been; but right around this moment, my brother threw the truck in reverse and floored it – smashing backwards with the force of a jet plane – instantly crushing the police officer between her vehicle and the solid concrete wall to his rear-right hand side. Jeremy says that he realized at time what was happening, and began to holler at JJ to “Stop the truck! Stop the truck! Stop the truck!”, to which my brother’s immediate response was to abide by.
*Jeremy’s Version of the events that followed:
JJ turned around in his seat, after putting the truck in PARK, and realized in the most raw and surreal sense what had just occurred, though he was still “incoherent”, in comparison with his true nature. The reality set him off to a point beyond retrieval; and he withdrew a .357 handgun from inside of a small cooler in the back seat. At this point, Jeremy is very afraid for his life, somehow – which tells me beyond the shadow of any doubt: the severity of JJ’s temperament and agitation, as they grew up like brothers together. Jeremy says something like,
“Dude, what the fuck are you gonna do? Shoot the rest of ‘em, now?”
He remembers the look on JJs face then: betrayal – like, ‘How could you say that to me?’. Before there was even time for another word between them, and amongst the background of megaphone voices, sirens and a helicopter overhead, JJ put the gun upward to his chin, and fired. TWICE. The coroner later described how a person often has all kinds of reflexive mechanisms that fire after a brain trauma like a fatal gunshot wound; they explained this as having been a reflex in his finger to pull the trigger again, merely reflexively, in death. But in the cab of the truck, in the moment, Jeremy was riddled right alongside of my brother’s body by the barrage of gunfire that immediately followed in response to the discharge of a firearm inside of the vehicle that just run over an officer.
In Jeremy’s mind, in the moment, he was shot by the second bullet that JJ fired at himself. He survived his tragic injuries: 8 gunshot wounds, 2 that should have been fatal. He swam for a long time in the states between awareness and hopelessness, in a hospital bed, for nearly a year. The most painful aspect of the entire thing for him was his perception of who had put him there, and how. It was over two years before I actually saw him face to face afterward, as my own traumatic injury happened within a few months of my brother’s suicide (and Jeremy’s traumatic injury). When I did see him, he was awkward and stand-offish, which I thought I understood already, being empathic.
Finally, he asked me “Why?”
He wanted to know why JJ had shot them, both of them, in the truck that day…
I was dumbfounded, needless to say…my heart ripped from my chest cavity all over again, sensing the horrible struggles that Jeremy had been swallowing in regard to believing he had been shot nearly to death by his very best friend on Earth; I found no words to offer him through my stunned affect.
“JJ would never have shot you…” I managed to whisper through my disbelief. “Nobody has bothered to tell you that, Jeremy?”
He collapsed with relief, as if he had been hoping my response would be exactly what I had said, and cried – he said, “Nobody needed to bother to tell me…”
It’s only now, since Jeremy’s passing recently, years and years after this conversation…that I think I finally understand what he meant by that, in its intended context. Days when I am yelling at my JJ’s twin sons (Jeremy and Joshua), as they run amok everywhere and back…the “Hellions”, reborn and growing old together once more. JJ and Jeremy REALLY were closer than brothers.
I miss you guys.