Behind-the-Camera of Photojournalist Nic Coury in Monterey County, California.

August 4, 2013

The Haunting Moment Where Life Overlaps Death

Richard Gutierrez, 22, being escorted by Salinas police after refused medical treatment at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. He is being charged with the homicide of Victor Sosa, 57.
The gang violence in Salinas has seen a massive rise in the last two weeks as rival gangs have erupted a turf war. The city has seen about 7 homicides in 9 days with many other non-lethal shooting and stabbings. In one instance, Salinas police shot and killed a gang member who opened fire rather than be arrested. It's been wild.

Last Thursday, I had arrived at the emergency room at Natividad Medical Center for a separate story. 10 minutes before, Victor Sosa, 57 of Salinas, died in the ER after being stabbed multiple times only 2 hours before. I would see his lifeless body surrounded by pools of blood on the floor of the trauma bay as doctors and nurses walked in and out of the curtained off room.

I was looking for a place to cover all the commotion without being in the way when two Salinas police officers slam through the ER bay door with a bloodied up young guy is handcuffs. It was Richard Gutierrez, 22, who was being arrested for the stabbing homicide. The cops sat him down within 3 feet from where I was standing. I looked up at the same time he did and I looked straight into the eyes of a guy who had just taken another life.

In my years as a news photographer, I had never come so physically close to someone who had killed another person so recently. As our glances met, I have never seen such darkness in a person's eyes. I don't think he regretted what he had done, but I have never seen so much fear in a person before. It was surreal, because the body of the man he had allegedly killed was still in the ER, a mere 20 feet from where we sat in the hallway.

I wasn't allowed to photograph a patient without their permission, but I asked Gutierrez. He refused, so I set up outside of the ER bay door for a shot of the cops dragging Gutierrez off to jail. Needless to say, he was less than happy about me taking his picture (above).

I was chatting with the ER doctor about it later on and he thought for a second and said something along the lines of during all his years in the ER, he can't recall a time when he had worked on saving one person's life, then moments later, also working on helping patch up the person that killed the first one. 

My shadow at the scene of a homicide in Seaside last week.