Australian tourist side stepping death’s shadow in the Dominican Republic

crikey.com.au - They say your life will flashes before your eyes when death comes knocking. The world freezes, and I guess you’re suppose to make peace with life or some other Hollywood crap. But I can tell you that is total bullshit. When I had a gun pointed at my chest all I could think about was getting the hell out of there.

At end of last year I found myself living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in the heart of the Caribbean. While most of my time there was spent dealing with dodgy taxi drivers and shitty electricity, there was one night that could have changed everything.

One night in Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo I had been walking from the pub with my mate Yira to Plaza De España to meet up with some friends. The streetlights were barely lit and there were a bunch of wild dogs hanging around, but that was all the norm. Two teenagers came darting around the corner, one after me and one after Yira. The taller of the two shoved a hand into my pocket, and the other fought for Yira’s handbag. I pushed taller teenager away, but with Yira screaming I figured I would just give him the 1000 pesos ($25) I had in my wallet. I remember trying to calm the guy and slowly reaching for my wallet. But the teenager became confused and disgruntled by my poor Spanish. He lifted his shirt and quickly reached into his pants to pull out a gun. A big gun. It looked like a Smith & Wesson – the one Clint Eastwood uses in Dirty Harry.

Everything changed in a matter of seconds. With a gun pointed just inches away from my chest I remember trying to think how the hell I would get out alive. Of course it was clear that the smart thing to do was just give him my money. No-brainer. But as I went to reach for my wallet again the teenager panicked. He looked more frightened than I was, and I was moving too slowly. He impatiently stepped forward, waving the gun at my chest. Everything in that moment had slowed frame-by-frame. I remember wondering if I would I reach my wallet in time before he shot me?

I could hear Yira screaming as she fought for her handbag. Her yells were drawing attention, making the gunman clearly unsettled. But by the time my hand had reached my pocket Yira had stopped screaming. When she saw the gun she had dropped her handbag. The attackers fled with the bag, and I was still intact and in one piece.

In the immediate aftermath I was nauseous and lightheaded. My stomach was still at my throat. I wanted to throw up. No matter how many breaths I took I couldn’t escape the nausea. The feeling would subside.

Almost immediately after the teenagers fled a police car passed by. We explained what happened and they asked us to jump in and point out the attackers. But the police drove in the direction opposite to where the attackers went. Yira, a Dominican, said the police were pretending because I was a tourist. She said they were putting on a show.

We made one trip around the block, and it was soon clear the police were over it. They called in another officer and drop us on the corner to meet him. The policeman had suggested we walk up strip illuminated by streetlights and point out the muggers. With Yira translating I pointed out there was no way they could be stupid enough to walk down the only area that is illuminated an full of police. My suggestion fell on deaf ears. I wasn’t surprised.

Yira argued with the policeman. She wanted him to accompany her to find her bag. He said there was no way he would come with us. We had been robbed at gunpoint, and all he had was torch. Fair point.

We headed off to the original destination in Plaza de España, passing an Italian on the way who had just been mugged as well. When we reached our friends later that night we explained what had happened, and to my surprise the group, who were all Dominican, were not fazed.

They said this was normal.

Go back | Date: 04 Jul 2013
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