In 1977 I was involved in a gun battle and had to watch as my father died. I returned fire and on that same day I lost my father and went to jail for the first time. I was 14 years old. This is something that I have been wanting to write about for a long time. I have told this story to a few friends and relatives but this is the first time I have shared it with the "world".
My parents were separated and working on a divorce. They were living apart with my sisters and I being with our dad. Dad had decided to move us all from Wayland, Kentucky to Ohio. We loaded as much as we could into a big U-Haul and headed north. There were only a few things left in the house and dad said we would come back for it later.
I had visited Dayton many times but it had been a long time since I had actually lived there. All the time I was growing up we moved a lot. We were continually moving. New school, new neighborhood... Anyway, we got mostly settled in and I had went to the new school for a couple days. I hated it, of course. It is hard to change schools any time but especially in the middle of a school year. Everything, and everyone is different.
Finally dad told me that we were going to go to Kentucky to get the rest of our things. I looked forward to seeing the old place and maybe some of my friends. I doubted I would get to see my mother but I thought of it just the same. So it was just me and dad on a long road trip.
We got to the old house and found that whatever we had left was gone. Dad assumed that mom had gotten it. We drove down the road a short distance to where my grandmother and grandfather lived. This house was sitting next to the road. The only thing that separated the road from the house was the sidewalk. We were parked right next to the sidewalk so were only a few feet from the porch.
My cousin was staying with our (maternal) grandparents and so he came out and talked with me for awhile while dad was talking to my grandmother. But she called him back into the house saying it was past his bedtime. Her and dad were talking and everything was calm. She was holding a baby girl, I think around 2 years old at the time. Dad asked her if she could ride with us to where mom was staying and go give her a message. He said he didn't want to go to the house himself and didn't want any trouble. He asked her to be dropped at the end of the road and walk a short distance to the house.
Suddenly my grandfather rushed out of the house and yelled "She's not going anywhere with you!" and right away started shooting! Dad fell over on me and blood was everywhere. His foot released from the brake and the truck began to roll forward and finally stopped in the neighbors hedges. I tried to talk to dad but he only mumbled a few words. The only thing I could understand was "Jesus".
It is hard to describe how I felt. I pushed it away. It was as though I was in a movie. I reached under the seat of the truck and got the pistol, a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson with a long barrel. Yes, dad carried a gun in the truck and often more than one. Back then many people did, especially in southeastern Kentucky. I stepped out of the truck and walked toward the back of it to see the house. When I stepped out my grandfather fired more shots. I raised up that .38 and pulled the trigger as quickly as I could with it pointed at him. Normally, I was a good shot. We practiced a lot, but for some reason I didn't even take time to aim or to even think about what I was doing. It was more like I was watching it happen. One shot hit him in the knee and he dropped. Another shot hit him in the chest. Later I realized how amazing it was that my grandmother nor the baby she was holding were hurt.
About the time I heard a loud voice. It was the town cop, finally. He said "Throw down the gun!" I stood there with it in my hand but lowered. He shouted the command a couple more times. Very slowly and calmly I walked back to the pickup truck to the still open passenger door and laid the gun down in the seat next to dad. Dad would never have thrown down a gun and I sure wasn't going to either. I didn't care at the time and had no concern that the cop might shoot me.
That was how one young boy was transformed over night. One day it was homework, curfews, and chores and the next day it was death and jail. The fact that it was a family thing made it even worse. Each side of the family seemed to hate each other. I was in jail for a few days but it seemed like much longer for me. While the family were comforting each other and crying on each others shoulders I was laying in a jail cell.
Copyright 2010, David Slone
Added 9/27 - According to some of my family I refused to testify in court about any of this and the man who killed my father went free. THAT IS A LIE. I don't know where that came from but it is wrong. I was not permitted to testify nor was I even allowed to go into the actual court room. If you think I refused to testify voluntarily then adjust your thoughts because I did not.