A week after I moved to Los Angeles, I fell deeply in love at first sight.
Maybe it was her soulful eyes and the way she looked at me, or how excited she always was to see me. Her name was Lucy, but I called her Lulu. Lulu is a chug (Chihuahua pug mix) and even with her doggy breath, she is still the best little kisser. I saw her in a little cage at the dog rescue, thinking she was a puggle, I took her out and she fell asleep on my lap.
Lulu is the kind of rescue dog that people dream about, super friendly. She loves babies, children, people squirrels, cats, everything.
This is Lucy aka Lulu. Because this article is about something horribly tragic, I will try to make everyone less bummed out by including gratuitous doggy pictures. This was taken two days before the murder.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived in the same building as a friend of mine from college. There were 75 apartments in the building, a pool, laundry and parking. It was a standard building filled with a variety of tenants in a relatively safe part of Los Angeles.
Cute puppies garner a lot of attention. Like Lindsay Lohan and the paparazzi, I couldn’t go anywhere with her without people staring at her cuteness. My neighbors would come up to me in the hallway, elevator or street and start petting her and talking to me.
Having only been a dog owner for a few weeks, I was shocked when anyone who approached Lulu wasn’t affectionate toward her. So, I was incredibly disturbed, when I was in the elevator with my neighbor, Joe (not his real name).
He was in his 80’s, but didn’t look a day over 60. I didn’t run into him that often, but when I did, he never said a word to me, not even a quick “hello” or smile. He was tall and his face was always frozen in seriousness.
He stood in the elevator with Lulu and I, staring her down. He looked as if he was trying to intimidate my dog, like she was a feral beast ready to attack. I didn’t like the look on his face, so like a good doggy mama, I held Lulu’s leash back so she couldn’t approach him.
She didn't attempt to play with him or get his attention. I think she knew something wasn’t right with Joe.
The elevator ride was probably at most, 30 seconds, but I could see there was something awry behind his eyes. I felt a vibe coming from him and could tell this wasn’t the kind of neighbor I’d go to and ask to borrow a cup of sugar. I thought to myself, “That man is crazy and I should stay away from him.” It would turn out this was the best judgment call I’ve ever made in my life.
Three hours later, I was in my apartment when I heard screaming and gunshots coming from somewhere in my building. I did not want to believe what I just heard, so I convinced myself that someone was trying to move furniture and dropped it. I thought perhaps the second voice I heard was someone arguing about where to move the furniture to.
For minutes, I heard various screams. I locked my door and put the chain on. I briefly considered going out in the hallway to figure out what was going on, but my instincts told me otherwise. I thought about calling the police, but I was afraid to overreact. A few minutes later I heard helicopters.
I heard the police arresting someone and realized I was safe. After a few minutes, I opened the door and stuck my head out. I saw a police offer in the hallway and asked him what was going on. He told me that someone had died and they were bringing out the body, so he suggested I close my door.
My neighbor Joe, had shot the building’s handyman Eddie (not his real name).
I only met Eddie once. Two days before his death, he came to my apartment to fix something. He was very nice. When I gave him a tip, he appeared genuinely appreciative.
Allegedly, Eddie went in to fix Joe’s garbage disposal. He did his job and left. While Eddie was in the hallway, Joe called him back in and shot him. The building’s resident manger and another tenant ran up to see what happened and Joe apparently threatened to kill them, too.
A few months later, the DA left a business card under my door instructing me to call him.
The next day, I called the DA and told him everything I had overheard. I told him about the incident a few hours earlier in the elevator. Joe was obviously a very sick individual.
Prior to this incident, I had a lot of trouble trusting my instincts. About a year before this, my former best friend stole $9000 from me. Long story short: after a betrayal by someone so close to me, I couldn’t trust myself. I constantly questioned even the most unimportant decisions. I would get stuck in analysis paralysis over minutiae such as what pair of socks to wear -- weighing out the pros and cons of Puma vs. Nike.
I made a variety of bad decisions from choosing the wrong dining table from Ikea, to staying at a job longer than I should have, to moving in with an absolutely horrible person, not just once, but twice.
However, when it came down to something very important, like not leaving my apartment when I heard gunshots, I didn’t even question my instincts. When I was in the elevator with someone who was very disturbed, I knew it. I felt it. It was real. And it was tragically proven to me.
Reflecting back on what happened, I realize that my inner voice isn’t wrong or damaged. Sometimes it’s just very hard to hear over my mind telling myself how I would like things to be.
For example, telling myself that gunshots and screaming were just people dropping furniture. That was what I wanted to be hearing, but not what I knew in my heart was actually happening.
At some point that spring, I came back one evening from walking Lulu. My building’s resident manager was in the lobby with a group of people, who I had never seen before. Waiting for the elevator for quite a few minutes, I eavesdropped on their conversation. I realized that these people were the family of Joe.
They were angry and bitter. Being the friendly dog she is, Lulu approached his daughter, expecting a soft pat on the head. Now I know not everyone likes dogs (although being in Los Angeles, they are hard to avoid), but she said something to the extent of “Get your dog away from me.”
It took a great amount of self-restraint not to reply, "At least my dog isn’t a murderer,” but something inside told me not to argue with her. I pulled Lulu’s leash back and stepped into the elevator.
*Names and some details regarding this case have been changed.