It was a quiet Monday morning -- not long after 7:30 a.m., but darker than it had been thanks to Daylight Saving Time starting again just the day before.
Salem Police officers Larry Schryer and Tom Rousseau were out on patrol when the call came over the radio from dispatchers: Several people had called in to report hearing shots fired in northeast Salem. Dispatchers said they could even hear the shots over the phone.
Police have previously responded to such calls to find nothing. Other times, they've arrived in the midst of criminal activity. As it is policy for Salem Police to take every call seriously, the two dutifully went to investigate.
No one could pinpoint exactly where the shots were coming from. Schryer and Rousseau asked around, but some witnesses reported hearing the shots coming from one direction; others reported hearing them from another. With each new piece of information, they relayed their progress back to dispatchers.
Talked to a gas station attendant. Thought he heard the shots coming from the West.
Talked to another witness. Said he heard several shots.
And then, a clue: One person told the officers he thought he heard the shots moving, possibly in the vicinity of Sunnyview Road and Lansing Avenue NE.
Police headed that way. And as they were heading down Lansing, they saw in front of them the culprit of the "gunshots."
It was a Volkswagen van, and it was backfiring.
Police made contact with the driver, who told officers she was attempting to return the van to a nearby residence before calling a tow truck.
The investigation complete, Schryer and Rousseau radioed back to dispatchers. It's just a van backfiring. And proceeded on their way.
The air was silent for several minutes. All was well. But then ...
All units, we're getting calls of shots fired. This time, the calls were coming in from several blocks away
Again, the officers responded. I'm nearby. I'll check it out.
Silence once again came across the radio air as Schryer and Rousseau returned to the scene. A few moments stretched into minutes.
And then, the silence was broken with the scratchy click of a radio, and with exasperation:
Code 4! they radioed, indicating the situation is under control. It's just the Volkswagen van again!