A Fictional You

When I was assigned to the library, supervising the civilian security staff, I spent a lot of time taking police reports and interacting with the varied populations that inhabited the library from opening to closing, including the wave of homeless people that entered the building every day. On one particular occasion, I spoke to a man (we’ll call Keith) who had been the witness to a crime and obtained his information, but hours later, something kept nagging at the back of my brain.

Finally, I realized that he and I were in the same high school class (we didn’t travel in the same circles, as I was all drama club and dungeons and dragons and he was an athlete and hung out with the cool kids). I returned to the floor where I had found him and asked him if he had attended San Martin High School (at least that’s what we’ll call it) and he confirmed that he had. I asked if he was class of 1984 and he said that he was. I told him my name and asked if he remembered me. He paused a minute, then he said, “You were the morning announcements guy, from drama. You were funny.”

Well, it was good for something. I remembered Keith as an open and gregarious guy, who had been voted most likely to succeed. One of the very few black people in my very whitewashed school (there should have been a lot of Hispanic kids-there wasn’t). I remember his very pretty girlfriend even better. I asked how he had been and what he had been up to. Keith then launched into a manifesto of how the FBI had been tracking him since he was in college and how they were now preventing him from returning home with an invisible psychic barrier and that he hadn’t seen his family in years. And I realized that he was homeless, and why.

After talking with him, I returned to my office and checked the internet for his parents. I found his mom and gave her a call, not sure what kind of reception I would receive, but making the call anyway. He did talk about how much he missed his mom, but apparently there was a national security reason preventing him from visiting her. When she answered, I didn’t want to scare her, as I am certain she was dreading a call from the police with news of her son. I have children; if one of them was missing, and I got a call from the police that started off with “Mr. Blalock? Are you the father of (missing child here)? Yes, we have some bad news.”

I started off with “Hi, I went to school with Keith. I happen to be a university police officer and Keith is here in the library, as we speak.” From there, I learned that Keith had attended college and had obtained a degree in Civil Engineering, but that he began to have some difficulties in his final year that seemed odd, but didn’t require intervention. It wasn’t until he started working for a prestigious engineering firm, that his mental health issues truly began to manifest, until he couldn’t maintain the job and had to move home. His family couldn’t force him to take his prescribed medications and he was certain that the doctors were really trying to poison him. And then he left, and his mom couldn’t make him stay.

After that conversation, whenever I saw Keith in the library, I called his mom and let her know. She would arrive soon after (within the hour) and take him out to lunch, get him a motel room where he could shower and put on new clothes that she had bought him. And then my assignment changed and I saw him less and less.

A couple of years later, one of my officers was busy towing a car for unpaid registration when the owner, a faculty member, showed up. She panicked. She ran to the car to prevent it from getting towed and I stopped her and she fell down (I absolutely did not knock her down or tackle her). She was still panicked and had to be detained; I arrested her for resisting and delaying a police officer and had her driven to the police station while her car was towed. She was later released with a citation.

Her influential friends began protests and a petition to have me fired. I don’t care what anyone tells you about ignoring them or that they can’t do anything, since you did everything you were supposed to do, this is a very stressful situation. Very. The university newspaper and the student TV news station did stories. Fortunately for me, there was no interest by the mainstream media.

One night, I had signed up for a special event and was in the street conducting traffic control, when I saw Keith on the sidewalk, watching me, waiting. I left the street and met him up on the sidewalk, greeting him and letting him know that he looked well.

Like some poetic, wandering sage from a knights and wizards novel, he smiled knowingly and said, “Wes, I’ve been looking for you. I read what happened in the paper. I want to know that what they are saying about you isn’t about you at all. It’s all about some fictional Wes Blalock they made up in their heads and they are talking about him, not you.”

Then he patted me on the shoulder and disappeared into the darkness. Those words; I found what he said to be very comforting, a very helpful piece of advice that got me through a very difficult time.

Who Doesn’t Love a Good Apocalypse?

I am from a generation where we reasonably feared, and secretly yearned for, an Earth-shattering, apocalyptic event. You can see this in the movies of our time (Mad Max, Escape From New York, Damnation Alley, Planet of the Apes, A Boy and His Dog, Logan’s Run, and The Omega Man, to name but a few). Out of that amazing genre, one of the most memorable post-apocalyptic fictions of my (I want to say childhood, but I was thirteen when this came out) formative years, was Thundarr the Barbarian. If you don’t know this Saturday morning cartoon, this is the amazing trailer. (It really is just the trailer).

What better apocalypse can there be than a runaway planet ripping the Earth and Moon asunder (I blame Pluto. After years of being bullied by the Earth, it decided to get back at us for ostracizing it from the rest of the Solar System). And two thousand years later, people have survived, but some have turned science into magic, how cool is that? Thundarr the Barbarian burned a place into my psyche and and my heart, and while it is incredibly cheesy when I watch an episode or two now, and the animation was cheap and stilted, it really fed my imagination.

So when I saw this book sitting on the shelf of my local thrift store…

…I had to have it. Was this the book that the cartoon was actually based on? Was it a novelization of the TV series? I wasn’t sure. The book was written ten years before the cartoon series premiered, so it likely came first, and TV Thundarr looked startlingly similar to book cover Thundar, so there was enough connection for me to spend the $2.95 to buy this book and check it out (Interestingly enough, the cover price of this 1971 publication was 75 cents-it had already almost quadrupled in price, a sound investment).

Fortunately, when I read this book, I had already developed a serious working knowledge of the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, from Tarzan, and the Princess of Mars, to the Pellucidar Series, and the Time Forgot books. When you grow up needing dinosaurs in your life, Burroughs is a good place to start. Of course, now every kid has Michael Crichton and the Jurassic Park books and movies. Spoiled. Either way, the book Thundar: Man of Two Worlds, is what we would now call fan fiction, by author Stuart J. Byrne writing under the name John Bloodstone, melding many of the worlds and even the story-telling style of Burroughs together into this tome (I needed an alternate word for book, but 192 pages is a tiny tome).

It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t John Carter tearing up Barsoom, either (and that Disney movie with Taylor Kitsch was way better than people gave it credit for). While Thundar: Man of Two Worlds had a princess and a primate-like sidekick, and scientists whose powers rivaled sorcerers, it didn’t have the breadth nor imagination of the Saturday morning cartoon. I’m glad I read it, and I couldn’t really tell you unequivocally that the cartoon was based on the book, but if it was, I would use the word inspired, at best.

And as far as a sound investment, this is what I found on eBay.

But this is what I found on Amazon.

Either way, I think I’m going to hold onto this sound investment.

Drawing by John Gallagher

See, I’m not the only one. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch a few Thundarr episodes, if I can find them on YouTube.

Gift of the Beat Gods

I was on routine patrol at about 10 A.M. when I saw a car stopped in the traffic lane, with its emergency blinkers flashing. I pulled over and saw that there was no one in it, so I ran the license plate, prepared to tow the car out of the traffic lane. The dispatcher immediately told me that the vehicle was stolen. That wasn’t something I expected, but I got out of my car and started filling out my paperwork to recover the stolen vehicle. As the dispatcher gave me the information I needed about the vehicle, he asked me, “Do you want to know who stole the car?”

Well, that’s new. I told him that I did.

“The report says that the suspect is Bob Sanders, white, male, adult, six foot two inches, 180 pounds, wearing a blue cotton, button-up, long sleeve shirt and tan slacks.”

I acknowledged the report and looked up and saw a white, male, adult, about six foot two, 180 pounds, wearing a blue cotton, button-up, long sleeve shirt and tan slacks. He saw me and hesitated, then started to turn down a side-street.

I called out, “Mr. Sanders, can you talk to me for a moment?”

Sanders’ whole body sagged as he stopped and turned to walk over to me.

I placed him under arrest for vehicle theft.

Now, my county engaged in a sort of competition during the holidays in which all the law enforcement agencies would try to arrest the most DUI drivers. This was highly publicized in an effort to reduce DUI incidents altogether. This incident occurred during that time frame. When I returned to the police station with him and read him his Miranda Rights, he agreed to talk to me. He explained that the vehicle was his employer’s and he had been sent out to pick up some materials. Instead, he found himself in a bar with some of his friends and they drank and did drugs into the wee hours of the morning. I asked him to perform field sobriety exercises and he failed miserably. I added the charge of DUI, based solely on his statement, well because it was that time of year.

Months later, in court for his preliminary hearing, I was on the stand to testify. His attorney, who appeared fairly young approached and asked me (in a condescending tone), “Sgt. Blalock, as a University police officer, how many DUI arrests have you actually made in your career?”

I’m certain that she was expecting me to answer, “Well, I’ve seen the CHP do it a couple of times, but I haven’t really had to do it myself.”

But instead, my answer was, “About 300.”

This flustered her and her eyes got big; her whole defense of the incompetent investigator had vanished. She shuffled through her reports and her notes and she regrouped and asked, “Sgt. Blalock, my client was on S. 4th Street when you stopped him. Do you usually patrol this far off the university campus?”

The prosecuting attorney actually started laughing out loud, as University police in California are State Law Enforcement officers and have a one mile radius jurisdiction from campus properties. And S. 4th Street bordered the campus. The defense attorney withdrew her question.

I learned later that he simply plead guilty to all the charges, including the DUI, even though I never even saw him in the vehicle, much less driving. He definitely deserved a better attorney.

Bad Choices

I was on routine patrol at about 10 A.M. when I saw a car stopped in the traffic lane, with its emergency blinkers flashing. I pulled in behind it and saw that there was no one inside, so I ran the license plate and prepared to tow the car out of the traffic lane. The dispatcher immediately told me that the vehicle was stolen. That wasn’t something I expected, but I got out of my car and started filling out my paperwork to recover the stolen vehicle. As the dispatcher gave me the information I needed about the vehicle, he asked me, “Do you want to know who stole the car?”

Well, that’s new. I told him that I did. “The report says that the suspect is Bob Sanders, white, male, adult, six foot two inches, 180 pounds, wearing a blue cotton, button-up, long sleeve shirt and tan slacks.”

I acknowledged the report and looked up and saw a white, male, adult, about six foot two, 180 pounds, wearing a blue cotton, button-up, long sleeve shirt and tan slacks. He saw me and hesitated, then started to turn down a side-street.

I called out, “Mr. Sanders, can you talk to me for a moment?”

Sanders’ whole body sagged as he stopped and turned to walk over to me.

I placed him under arrest for vehicle theft, handcuffed him, and put him in my car.

Now, my county engaged in a sort of competition during the holidays in which all the law enforcement agencies would try to arrest the most DUI drivers. This was highly publicized in an effort to reduce DUI incidents altogether. This incident occurred during that competition time frame. When I returned to the police station with him and read him his Miranda Rights, he agreed to talk to me. (Never do that, by the way. Ask for a lawyer). He explained that the vehicle was his employer’s and he had been sent out to pick up some materials. Instead, he found himself in a bar with some of his friends and they drank and did drugs into the wee hours of the morning.

Drinking, you say. Doing drugs, you say. Hmmmm.

I asked him to perform field sobriety exercises and he failed miserably. I added the charge of DUI, based solely on his statement, because, well, it was that time of year.

Months later, in court for his preliminary hearing, I was on the stand to testify. His attorney, who appeared fairly young, approached and asked me (in a condescending tone), “Sgt. Blalock, as a University police officer, how many DUI arrests have you actually made in your career?”

I’m certain that she was expecting me to answer, “Well, I’ve seen the CHP do it a couple of times, but I haven’t really had to do it myself.”

But instead, my answer was, “Ummm, about 300.”

This flustered her and her eyes got big; her whole defense of the incompetent investigator had vanished. She shuffled through her reports and her notes and she regrouped and asked, “Sgt. Blalock, my client was on S. 4th Street when you stopped him. Do you usually patrol this far off the university campus?”

The prosecuting attorney actually started laughing out loud, as University police in California have authority anywhere in the State as state police. And S. 4th Street bordered the campus. The defense attorney withdrew her question.

I learned later that he simply plead guilty to all the charges, including the DUI. I had never even seen him in the vehicle, much less driving. He definitely deserved a better attorney.

Missing!

Did I ever tell you about the time I lost my child? I’m not talking about when they are hiding inside a circular stand of clothing at Target or when you turn around at the amusement park and realize that they followed someone else, thinking they were you, no. I’m talking about something completely different.

My wife was working for a scrapbooking company and had a business trip to Dallas for a week, leaving me to manage the household of four children, which should have been no problem considering the two older kids were teenagers and had a handle on things for the most part, especially Jade, my older daughter, who happened to be hyper-responsible at that age. My youngest, Tundra (don’t blame me, I asked my kids if they wanted me to use their real names or fake names in my blog and this is the name she picked. She picked) was only in second grade, but she walked home from school by herself because the school was just on the other side of the block and a group of them walked together.

With my wife on her flight to Dallas, it was important that I prove that I could be a responsible parent and could manage the children, but not so important that I felt I needed to take time off from work and stay home. I mean, the kids have their routine down and everything should be fine until I get home from work, right? Right?

At about 2:30 PM, Jade calls me on my office phone, because at that time, my office was in a basement and the cell signals were terrible, and notifies me that Tundra has not come home from school.

Well, school let out at 2:10, so maybe she is just playing with her friends after school. I asked Jade to run over to the school and look for her and once she is home, call me and let me know. I waited and about 2:45, Jade calls back.

“Dad, no one is at the school. Everyone has gone home and the office staff don’t know where she is.”

Remain calm. Don’t panic. “Okay, see if you can call some of her friends. We have a list of parents’ phone numbers on the fridge. If no one knows anything, call me back. I’ll come home and we’ll take it to the next step.”

Jade agreed and got off the phone. I sat at my desk, thinking about what those next steps would be, calling the local city police, making a missing person’s report, calling organizations to perform searches, checking the Megan’s Law website for my neighborhood. Making a checklist.

Finally, at 3:05, Jade called back and told me that no one knew where Tundra was. That was it. I told Jade I’m coming home and we’re going to find her, no matter what. I gathered my stuff from my desk and started to leave when I heard my desk phone ring. Hoping that it was Jade with good news, I returned and answered.

It was my wife, Mia, letting me know that she had just arrived in Dallas and was headed to the hotel. I don’t really remember what she was telling me, because I wasn’t listening to her. I had a decision to make.

Do I tell her? Or do I not?

If I told her, she would get angry and upset and she was a thousand miles away and had no way to help or do anything. If I didn’t tell her, I had an image of her going to her hotel room, turning on the TV, and seeing CNN announce an Amber Alert for a San Jose girl and see Tundra’s picture on the news. And then I would be a dead man.

So I interrupted her. “Honey, I’m glad you arrived safely, but I have to go. Tundra didn’t come home from school and I have to run home so that we can try to find her.”

“But,” Mia said. “I asked Felecia (my oldest son’s girlfriend at the time) to pick her up from school. Didn’t I tell you?”

Frustrated Emoticons Vector Images (over 370)

I had some phone calls to make.

It’s A Disaster

Again, I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time, sheltering in place with my lovely wife, so I have another story about her to share.

On May 4, 1998, I was at my in-laws’, watching television. Everyone else was outside, but I was violently allergic to some of the plants that they grew by the swimming pool, so I stayed indoors (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). My wife returned from a shopping trip with Jade (again, maybe she’s the common denominator here) and while my daughter ran outside to go swimming, Mia excitedly pulled me away from whatever show I was watching. Probably Maury Povich, he’s my favorite.

“Wes, I just saw a tornado!” I listened patiently while she explained that she had seen the clouds darken and swirl and start to reach for the ground.

Then I told her that the San Francisco Bay Area does not get tornados. We do not have the proper landscape or weather patterns. The buildings and road also compromise the weather systems needed to create a tornado. She tried a couple of times to convince me and I responded with, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mia looked physically hurt. “Well, I thought it was a tornado.”

“I’m sure you saw something, I don’t know what,” I said, “But it wasn’t a tornado.”

Mia nodded and we turned on the news to see what had actually happened. Immediately, there was a reporter in the field talking.

“Well, Bob, it appears that we had a tornado, here in Sunnyvale. It tore the roof off the house behind me.”

Well, how about that. Who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

Just a note to follow-up on this story. I’ve told it for years and Mia always got mad at me. I finally asked her why she got mad? Mia said that I was making fun of her. Incredulous, I asked her how I was making fun of her?

“I don’t know. Somehow,” she said, frustrated.

I really do love her.

The Lemon Tree Incident

I love my wife. There is no one on this planet I would rather be stuck working at home with, so now that I appear to be sharing space with her during the workweek, I thought I would share some stories about her.

I was working a patrol shift, in the days before cell phones (or at least cell phones that didn’t require a suitcase) when the dispatcher called me and said that my daughter (the older one, Jade, age eleven at the time) was on the phone and that it was an emergency. I got on the phone and Jade told me that her mother, Mia (my wife) had been trimming the lemon tree when it stabbed her in the eye and that she was bleeding. I asked her if the blood was coming from the eyelid or the eyeball.

Jade, “I can’t tell, there’s too much blood.”

Okay. I told her to call 9-1-1 and then let me know what hospital they take Mia to. Jade agreed and I hung up the phone. I sat in dispatch for the next thirty minutes, making inane conversation with the dispatcher, worrying about my wife and her eyeball.

Finally, I began wondering what was taking so long? Fire department response, maybe seven minutes, arrival and assessment, maybe fifteen minutes, then they should be packing her up and transporting. I should know where she’s going by now. I called my house back and Mia answered.

“What the hell are you doing home?” I asked, incredulous.

“What are you talking about? Can you believe Jade called 9-1-1? I had to cancel them.”

My mouth opened and closed but no words came out. “How is your eye?”

“I don’t know, I can’t open it. It hurts too much.”

“Okay, I’m coming home,” I told her and hung up.

I arranged to make sure my shift was covered and went home. It took some convincing, but I told Mia that I was not going to wake up in the morning with a puddle of her eye goo on the pillow, we were going to the emergency room. Several hours later, with a prescription for anti-biotics and a scratched cornea, we were home again. Safe and recovering.

And right now, as I type this, she is watching a horror movie (with both eyes), which she does not normally like to watch. So if you notice any typos or words missing, it’s because she is screaming near me periodically.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Cops can be a superstitious bunch. If some cop you know doesn’t think they are very superstitious, just wish them a “quiet shift,” and see how angry they get. I learned early in my training about the “beat gods” (they are minor gods and do not require capitalization). If you want to get a good arrest, you might have to appease the beat gods by arresting some idiot who needs arresting, but you would rather be lazy and not do it because it would be too much paperwork. If you bypass the untouchable, you may get nothing but stupid calls all night. If you treat some transient poorly, the beat gods may punish you with a burning building or worse, a car fire in the parking garage. If you appease the beat gods by doing your job right, you may be rewarded with a good night, but if you say something stupid…

On a particular night, I was assigned to have a trainee ride along with me on patrol. I made some pedestrian stops and some vehicle stops and then told her, “Hey, let’s find you a DUI investigation.”

Almost immediately, I saw a blue Kia driving toward me on a 25 MPH street at about 40 MPH. The Kia came to a screeching halt at a red light and the driver looked at me across the intersection. When the light turned green, he drove past me very slowly and I made a U-turn to go after him. At the next intersection, when the light there turned green, the Kia made a slow left turn, the wrong way onto a one way street and failing to yield to the oncoming traffic that was now honking at him. I followed and turned on all my emergency lights to stop the car. It slowly continued northbound in the southbound only street until it pulled to the right at the next intersection. I gave the dispatcher the license plate and was about to put my car in park, when the Kia turned left and shot up Carlos Street. I went after it, until it ran the red light at the next intersection. I stopped and told the dispatcher that the vehicle had fled and that we were not in pursuit, as our agency only allowed the pursuit of violent felons. The dispatcher notified me that the plate came back to a stolen car.

“Motherfucker,” I said out loud, “I hope you crash and die.” Then I remembered the trainee next to me in the car. Oops.

Dispatch sent us on another call and we busied ourselves looking for a drunk person falling down. About four minutes after terminating my pursuit, one of my other officers, Edward called on the radio and said that the local metropolitan police department had an injury crash and that the vehicle was on fire on Carlos Street at Scott Street.

No. It couldn’t be. Dread swirled up like a San Francisco fog.

 I asked dispatch if they had a license plate for the crashed vehicle and they did not. I told dispatch that my officers and I would respond out to the crash location just to be sure. If it was the same vehicle, the city police would need to know that we had interacted with it.

Edward arrived on the scene before I did. His voice was high and strained as he reported, three times, that the fire department was on scene.

“They’re on fire,” Edward radioed.

“Vehicle is on fire,” dispatch parroted.

“No the occupants are on fire,” Edward corrected. “And it’s too hot to get in there.”

I arrived with the trainee and saw the debris field in the roadway. The engine block, a single wheel, and a generous sprinkling of small metal shards, fragments, and scrap littered the street. The vehicle had struck a concrete abutment at a high rate of speed, possibly near 100 MPH and had catapulted into a homeless camp down the embankment, burning, flames thirty feet in the air.

Edward waved me toward the guardrail and explained that he was the first police officer on scene. In the background, firefighters aimed hoses at the burning car. Edward said that prior to his arrival, passersby had pulled the two passengers from the vehicle, most notably, an Allied Universal security officer assigned to the Valley Transit Authority, who had burned both hands prying the superheated door open to free the front seat passenger.

When I looked over at the car, I watched firefighters struggle with the driver, to free him of the inferno that engulfed the vehicle. The driver’s feet were still trapped as two firefighters, holding him by the torso, just kept trying to jerk him free through the window while another firefighter hit him with the powerful stream from the hose. Finally, after freeing him, paramedics loaded the driver onto a gurney and trundled him toward the ambulance.

My trainee had seen his face, even though I had not. She asked me if she should try to identify him. I told her she could, if she wanted to. She took a few steps and stopped.

“Will I be traumatized?” She asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I guess that’s up to you.”

She nodded and turned back to the fire. As the paramedics brought him past her, she nodded and told me she recognized the tattoo on his neck that this was our runaway driver. Firefighters muttered “Non-survivable injuries.”

Presently, a city police supervisor arrived and I explained how we were involved, but that we had not conducted a pursuit in their jurisdiction. A few minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy arrived and looked at the vehicle, then approached the city supervisor, announcing that they had tried to stop the vehicle much earlier in the evening, but that when it took off, they stopped.

The two passengers were underage, chronic runaways who were now both seriously disabled after joyriding in a stolen car with an intoxicated driver, who died within a couple of hours of reaching the trauma center.

This was what I had asked for, but not what I wanted.

Short Shorts

Brown Paper Bag

I was working security outside a Fraternity Party. One of the activities I performed while working these events was to manage the consumption of alcohol in public. The less drinking outside the party, the less chance of violence outside the party. Often when the party would spill out onto the front lawn, or worse, the sidewalk and the streets, fights would break out. So I would stop anyone in possession of an open container of alcohol outside the party. If they were over 21, they would get a warning for an infraction violation of the municipal code. If they were under 21, I would write a misdemeanor citation for minor in possession of alcohol.

I saw a young man walking toward the party, drinking from a beverage inside a brown paper bag. This suggested to me that he was probably drinking an alcoholic beverage. I contacted him and asked him what he was drinking. He pulled a 4Loko from the bag and admitted that he was drinking an alcoholic beverage. I got his ID from him and saw that he was 23 years old. I warned him that he was not allowed the drink alcoholic beverages in public and he said, “Oh, it’s okay. I kept it in the brown paper bag.”

I realized that he didn’t understand and explained that the brown paper bag didn’t make it legal, it was just to keep me from knowing what he was drinking. The young man’s pleasant expression fell and he realized that he was committing a violation.

“Oh my God. Thank you for telling me. I could have gotten in real trouble.”

Parolee Insight

I was supervising a trainee in Field Training. He was having issues and we decided to try putting me in plain clothes to see if that helped. I like Hawaiian shirts, so that is what I wear. I’m supposed to look like a civilian ride-along, but perceptive people can tell that I’m a cop, wearing a vest under my shirt, and a gun hidden in my waistband. My trainee was detaining a parolee who might have been involved in some gang activity. This detention lasted a while as the trainee tried to figure out what he was supposed to be doing (well into his 14th week of training-where he should be able to manage all on his own). I leaned against the patrol car during this time and watched and waited. This particular trainee often complained when the trainers intervened, “But I was just about to do that.” So I was no longer intervening. I brought a book, in case I got bored. Finally, the trainee was done and told the parolee that he was free to leave. As the trainee got back into the driver’s seat, the parolee approached me and asked quietly, “Hey, Sarge. He’s not going to pass training is he? He’s gonna get himself killed out here.”

Prison Roll-ups

I stopped a parolee who told me a long rambling story about his criminal career. I caught that he used the phrase “rolled up” a couple of times. This was in the context of when he got in trouble in prison and that he got “rolled up.” This “rolling up” was a serious obstacle to his betterment in prison and prevented him from getting good assignments. Either way, I was there, contacting him because he was behaving like an idiot and I needed to shoo him away. Shooing done, I continued on my way.

Later in the day, one of my officers asked me to watch the two parolees that he had detained while he searched their pickup truck. While we waited, I took the opportunity to ask them if they were familiar with the term “rolled up.” They both said that they were, enthusiastically. I told them that a guy I had stopped had mentioned it to me and I didn’t know what he was talking about, could they explain?

Driver: Yeah, it means he’s a fuckup.

Me: How so?

Passenger: Did he tell you who rolled him up?

Me: No. Is that important?

Driver: Yeah. If you fuck up and the guards roll you up, that means the guards come into your cell, throw all your shit on your mattress, make you roll up your mattress and take you to a new cell, somewhere else so they don’t have to deal with you.

Me: And who else could roll you up?

Passenger: Well, if you fuck up and piss off the other prisoners, they come into your cell and kick you until you roll up into the fetal position. Same thing, different response, but really, you end up in the same place, ‘cause the guards have to move you anyway.

You learn something new every day.

My First Jumper

I was only two years on, just a newby, driving around in a shiny police car, wearing a neatly pressed uniform, and a smile you just couldn’t get off my face. I heard that the city police were responding to a jumper (someone had leapt off the top of a building) just one block from me. I turned on the lights and siren and hit the gas, driving very quickly to the other side of the block. This was in a downtown area at about 10 AM and there were people everywhere pointing for me to see a man lying on the sidewalk. I grabbed my First Aid Kit and ran out to save a life. Way too late.

One person told me, “He just stopped blinking and making noise just as you drove up.” Uck.

I checked for a pulse, but found nothing. The man was lying face down on the brickwork sidewalk, but was bent at the waist at a funny angle. His head seemed to melt into the sidewalk, as though it extended a couple of inches into the ground, though I knew that it wasn’t the sidewalk that had given. A wave of thick, dark blood rolled slowly toward the gutter and there were several teeth lying about nearby. I got on the radio and said, “I think he’s out of the game.” It’s not like I practiced that, it sounds stupid even as I write it. Hey, I was new. That’s what came out of my mouth.

I was busy trying to cordon off the area for the city police, who had not yet arrived, when another witness told me that it had looked like he was trying to grab one of the evergreen trees that lined the roadway, on his way down. Like maybe he had changed his mind or something. Someone else said that he had landed on his feet, buckled in half, and his head struck the sidewalk, hard, and he didn’t get up.

A bystander ran up to me, and right out of the First Aid/CPR training video, said, “I know First Aid and CPR. Can I help?”

I pointed to the gentleman on the sidewalk and asked, “Do you want to perform rescue breathing?”

He looked down at the dead man, whose mouth was pressed against the brick, and hesitated. “Um, no.”

I gave him some latex gloves and asked him to double check for a pulse.

Firefighters and paramedics arrived and set up a better perimeter. Then the city police arrived. I was pretty frazzled at this point, so I gave my information to the first arriving officer, including the statements of the pedestrians. He smiled at me like, this isn’t my first rodeo, son.

And so I drove away, listening to the radio just to see what was going on with the investigation. About 30 minutes later, I heard a city officer report that he had found the location that the man had jumped from, at the top of a parking garage. He reported that the area was littered with crumpled up money, heroin, baggies, a knife, and bloodstains. Even if he had jumped, it was in a desperate attempt to avoid another violent death. The city police immediately began widening their perimeter and doing door to door checks for witnesses, now that they had a murder, and not a suicide.

There is a reason that they teach us to investigate suicides as murders until we are certain they are not.