Eric Barga arrived at Covenant Presbyterian Church about a half hour early for bell choir practice. April 5 was “one of the first nice days,” Barga remembers, so he sat on the trunk of his car and began killing time by playing scales.

Less than ten minutes later, two law enforcement units rolled up, having received a report of a man with a long rifle.

“I didn’t really feel threatened,” said Barga. “I don’t get nervous. Years of music school (performance) beats that out of you.”

The Springfield News-Sun has the full story:

Dispatched at a few seconds before 6:09 p.m., two units arrived on the scene just before 6:12 p.m., one with Officers Tim Melvin and Sgt. Bill Sanders, a second with shift supervisor, Sgt. Bill Evans.

“They didn’t immediately approach me,” Barga said. “I saw a police car, it’s a big police van, roll up really slowly” in a parking lot between the west side of the church and the east side of a former fitness center and previous Habitat for Humanity ReStore. “I wasn’t concerned that I was doing anything wrong.”

But moments later, as that van pulled into the covenant lot from in front of him, another unit he hadn’t noticed pulled up behind him.

Graf said that while the word tactics can seem like a “hardcore” term, it involves a common-sense and thoughtful way police use to approach a potentially dangerous situation. In the many years he spent on street patrol in Springfield before becoming chief, a simple tactic he used on a burglary call was to stop his patrol car a few houses down from where the crime was supposed to have been taking place so he could approach the house at an angle rather than straight on.

As they approached Barga, the officers were using such a tactical approach, and, though the intent may not have been hard core, Barga remembers the feeling of the moment.

“At this point, I realize they’re confronting me,” he said. “I put on a little dopey smile and said, ‘Did somebody call the cops on me?’”

Although he felt slightly tense, “I didn’t really feel threatened,” he said, adding, “I don’t get nervous. Years of music school (performance) beats that out of you.”

He nonetheless did notice that all three officers were wearing protective vests, which, as it turns out, is standard procedure, although not what people who experience it for the first time consider a standard experience. He also recalls that while two left their car, another stayed in his.

Barga had no idea why the police were there. Searching his mind, he wondered if he had somehow violated a noise ordinance. The notion that someone might have mistaken his bassoon for a rifle “never crossed my mind.”

“In the right kind of light, it looks like a bazooka,” he said, “but I don’t think it was the right kind of light.”

His tension quickly faded.

The officers “were all giggling” by the time they came to a stop, Barga said. One even asked him the classic question: “Is that a bassoon or an oboe?”

Graf said that although it may have been apparent from across the parking lot that Barga had a musical instrument, “You’re still going to talk to the person to make sure everything’s OK. You want to follow through on the calls,” in part because the 911 caller may be viewing the scene and otherwise conclude the officers didn’t properly respond.

Less than four minutes after their arrival, the officers were gone.

No one was hurt, everyone had a good laugh, and Barga once again, explained that his instrument was a bassoon, not an oboe.

There are plenty of things you could say about this story — the media’s hyperventilating and fear-mongering over guns has made some irrationally afraid, guns clearly don’t make woodwind sounds, or even that people need to mind their own damn business and leave church bassoonists to practice their scales under orange skies in peace.

But really, this is yet another indictment on our sad excuse for an education system. What the hell are people learning these days if a bassoon is so easily confused with a long rifle?