Give Me Liberty or Give Me My Phone

It seemed like a regular call from the library security guards that someone had attempted to steal some library materials and was detained at the entrance. I arrived with another officer (Ofc. Paulson) and we spoke to the young man who tried to leave the library with materials that weren’t allowed to be checked out. He was a regular, someone who caused trouble periodically. He imagined himself some kind of tough guy with his gang tattoos and “you can’t do nothin’ to me” attitude, but we had never seen him with any other gang members and he seemed semi-homeless. A tattoo on his neck declared his particular ethnic pride in a culture half a world away, and not an ethnicity I normally saw in the Hispanic gangs in my work area. But his ethnicity in the tattoo was misspelled. I don’t know if he gave bad instructions due to his own lack of schooling or if some jailhouse artist was messing with him, but either way, it left a prominent and embarrassing mark on his public persona.

I asked the security guard what we were going to do with the young man, whom we will call “Toby.” The security guard wanted him cited, as they had contacted him too many times recently and felt Toby needed consequences. So I began to write out a citation for theft, which incensed Toby. He stood up and started shouting at the security guard until the police officer with me sat him back down. Grumbling and periodically throwing evil glances up at the security guard, Toby then took out his cell phone, dialed and waited.

“Yeah, there’s this big, fat, Mexican security guard at the library. He’s about six feet tall with a stupid Mexican mustache and he’s getting me arrested. I want him taken out.”

“Give me that,” Ofc. Paulson said, taking the phone from Toby’s hand.

“Wow. Did you just phone in a death threat in front of two police officers?” I asked him.

Now Toby decided that he had gone too far and told us that he was just kidding. I asked him who he had called and what their phone number was so I could confirm that. Or even if I could just look through his phone to get the last number he called. Toby said that he couldn’t do that because he wasn’t a snitch.

Paulson, the security guard and I conferred and we decided that instead of arresting Toby for felony threats, we would take a report and follow-up with a search of the cell phone so that we could call the last number and see what happened from there. No one there really believed that Toby had the authority to order a hit on anyone. But better safe than sorry.

I issued Toby his citation and told him to leave the library. He asked for his cell phone back. I told him that we were going to hold the phone for evidence, so that we could get a search warrant and find out who he had called. Toby flipped out and began screaming for his cell phone back. I told Toby that he wasn’t getting the phone back until we were done with the investigation and that since he was now causing a full blown disturbance in the lobby of the library, immediately after threatening to kill an employee, we were issuing him a notice to leave campus for two weeks (626.4(a) PC for anyone who wants to look that up).

Paulson and I escorted him off campus and watched him walk out to the middle of the street…where he stopped and screamed at us that he wanted his phone back. When it finally looked like Toby was leaving, we walked back up to the entrance of the library. But when we turned around, we saw that Toby was running back toward us, back on campus property and now in violation of the 626 Notice. Paulson and I grabbed him and we all fell to the ground where we put handcuffs on him and Toby began to cry, with full blown tears and snot.

He cried all the way to the jail. Don’t do the crime if you can’t…just can’t.

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