STERLING – If you spend time in just about any newsroom, there’s usually one constant: the scanner.
Most of the time what you hear is inconsequential, and usually happening in another part of town. Occasionally, there’s a fire or traffic accident that catches your ear. You monitor what’s going on in case it develops into something you need to cover.
But sometimes, like Wednesday around 11:15 a.m., the chatter catches your ear for a different reason, because what the police and dispatch are talking about is heading your way.
This story pretty much begins and ends with Sauk Valley Media.
While on her lunch break, newsroom staffer Jenny Young saw a man walking around in a white robe. She thought it was odd, and thought maybe he was walking to his mailbox.
There was no mailbox in sight, though, and the man started to walk into a cornfield. That’s when she called 911.
Shortly after, in the newsroom, scanner activity started to increase. Sitting at my desk I could hear police report where the man was, and where he was going. Little by little he was making his way toward the newsroom.
The intersection of Lynn Boulevard and Freeport Road is about a half-mile from the Sauk Valley Media building. When the scanner reported that as the man’s location, and that he was heading for the PetSmart, which I can see from my desk, I knew it was time to take a look outside.
But there was nothing. No police cars or man in white robe in sight. So I headed back to my desk, again keeping an ear near the scanner.
The next reported location wasn’t the PetSmart. Apparently the man didn’t get that far. He was right behind our building. So I made my way through the newsroom, through the back of the building, which houses the printing press, and out the back door.
Sure enough, there were several police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance along Lynn Boulevard near the field just behind the building. But by the time I got out back he had been taken into custody.
Someone I talked to, who had been driving by and pulled into the building’s rear parking lot, said he heard the wandering man tell police he was Jesus.
If the man was in fact dealing with a mental disorder, he’ll hopefully be taken to, or returned to, somewhere he can get help.
The whole incident was over in less than an hour and the newsroom was back to its usual self. But hours later, there still was a white robe along the side of Lynn Boulevard.
As a reporter, you usually have to get out of the office, into your car and drive to where news is happening. But sometimes, apparently, the news comes to you.