COLUMBUS -- I came upon a tragic scene outside the Statehouse a few days ago that I can't stop thinking about.
It was the start of rush hour, cars were backed up, and there was a city bus stopped near the east-side door, not too far from the parking garage exit. As I approached, a couple of police cars pulled up, lights flashing, and a couple of officers exited and headed toward the bus.
A few minutes later, the officers came walking back with a kid in dirty jeans, hands cuffed behind his back, and one of the officers was carrying a gun.
There was no struggle or screaming or drama -- just a kid being escorted off a bus and patted down to make sure he didn't have any other weapons.
Some people were standing around watching; others were heading home after their workdays. I'm sure a few passersby didn't even notice.
This kid didn't look to be much older than my youngest, maybe 12 or 14. He had the same style haircut as my kid and some of the same facial features. He looked resigned to the fact that he was in trouble.
It was sad.
I haven't checked the incident report. I don't know the exact circumstances behind what prompted law enforcement involvement. I'm speculating, but here's how it looked: Some kid who resembled my youngest was on a city bus, apparently by himself, with a gun and did something to prompt officers' to drive to the scene and handcuff him.
Was he scared? Was he being bullied? Did he find the gun lying around somewhere? Did he threaten somebody? Was he just showing off? Was the gun even real?
I have no idea.
Where were his parents? Is his a broken home, with an absent father or mother or both? Was he going home from school, or did he skip that day? Were drugs somehow involved? Was this the first time he had been handcuffed?
Again, I have no clue.
And what happens next? Does he end up in juvenile detention, housed with other kids left to their own devices and carrying their own baggage? Will he fall in with the wrong crowd and end up getting into more serious trouble down the road? Does prison await?
What then? Will he someday leave his own kids behind to fend for themselves, and will they repeat the cycle of dirty jeans and guns on city buses, or worse?
In retrospect, maybe it wasn't such a big deal.
Admittedly, I'm short on the actual details but long on speculation, as is wont to happen when you're walking or driving past a scene involving police cars and flashing lights and handcuffs.
You think about the people involved, both the victims and the perpetrators.
You speculate about the circumstances.
You wonder how they ended up in that position.
You consider whether you or your loved ones could end up similarly positioned.
Ultimately, I keep asking myself: What was up with that kid in dirty jeans, and did he really have a gun, and why?
And could/should somebody have done something before he ended up handcuffed outside the Statehouse?
I can't stop thinking about it.
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.