Sticks and Stones

When I told the man that he had a warrant for his arrest, his eyes showed no surprise, just the same desperation that they held when I had originally stopped him. It was early on a Sunday morning and the only other officer on my shift that day had called in sick. In order to maintain our minimum of two police officers on duty at any time, one of the night shift guys was holding over to cover. But he was actually holding over to finish a report from an arrest he had made the night before. We were killing two birds with the same police report.

At the beginning of our shifts on the weekends, it’s a good idea to make a quick sweep of the University campus to make sure no buildings had been broken into, no homeless were camped out someplace they shouldn’t be, no dead bodies were littering the ground (you don’t have to believe me on this one, but periodically, on a University campus, we found people who had died of exposure or suicide, that no one had noticed previously), or that no one was vandalizing anything. But Sunday was normally a very slow day, and I counted on that, being the only one on patrol, with my backup typing away in the police station.

I saw him trying to get into the library, yanking on the door like it was the rip cord handle to a lawnmower, so I decided to see what his particular concern was, before he broke the heavy, decorative, glass door. As I walked up, he turned to see me and his face seemed familiar, very similar to the face on a BOL that I had reviewed at the station during briefing. He looked like a man that the detectives wanted to talk to regarding a sex crime committed in the very same library building just a week ago. But he was just different enough from the grainy, video still photo that I couldn’t be sure. But the man’s name was on the flyer. And that I remembered.

So, just a look at his ID should clear it up. I saw the fear in his face when I said, “good morning” and asked him what was going on. He said that he was trying to get into the library. I told him it was closed and pointed to the large “closed” sign in the glass door in front of him. I then asked for ID. He said that he didn’t have any, but that he was just going to leave.

I told him that he was detained for an investigation involving both a crime that occurred in the library last week and for potential vandalism to the door that I had witnessed and asked him for his name and date of birth. I explained that if he was not the person that I was looking for and that there was no damage to the door, that he would be on his way in a few minutes. He responded in a way that made me feel like he wasn’t lying about his information and I ask dispatch to run a records check on him and confirm his identity.

Dispatch told me that he had a very sizeable warrant. Since I never wore an earpiece, the man was able to hear what dispatch told me and we looked at each other for a moment. I nodded and told the man that he had a warrant and that it appeared that the judge really wanted him to be taken to court. I was not going to be able to issue him a citation with a new court date for this warrant. He said he understood and the lack of surprise in his eyes told me that he was aware of the warrant and had been dreading this moment. And then I saw something else in his eyes. An escape plan.

Just as I called for emergency backup, the man took off. I grabbed him on his third step and we both crashed to the ground. He fought to get away from me and I fought to hold him down until my backup got there, but his adrenaline and my adrenaline appeared about evenly matched. Every time he started to get the upper hand, I took it away, but I couldn’t get actual control of him. He would push up off the ground to get his legs under him and I would sweep an arm out from under him and we would fall back to the ground and start again. According the clock in dispatch, when I checked the records later, we fought like this for about three minutes.

If you have never been in a knock down, drag out fight, three minutes is a LONG TIME. I realized that my strength was draining and that I might lose this fight if it dragged on too much longer. With all my weight on top of him (I was old and fat then too, you’d think that would have been enough) I reached back and drew my collapsible baton.

“Sir, I need to effect this arrest and I am authorized to use all reasonable force to effect an arrest, so since I can’t seem to get control of you like this, I’m going to have to use my baton to break your right leg. Do you understand?”

Please keep in mind that physically, based on my strength at that moment and on the angle that I would have had to hit him, I would have been lucky to raise a welt with the baton, much less break anything.

A bystander ran up with his phone and said, “Don’t worry, Dude. I’ll record him breaking your leg.”

I swung the baton, expanding it with a very intimidating sound of metal links locking into place. I pointed the baton at the camera man. “Sir, you are allowed to keep filming, but I need you to step back a few feet.” The camera man followed my instructions.

I turned my attention back to my suspect. “Sir, I’m sorry that I have to do this, but on the count of three, I’m going to break your leg. Okay? One…”

“Please don’t break my leg! I give up! I give up!”

I dropped the baton and quickly handcuffed the man before he changed his mind. And just as my backup drove up, lights and siren in full display.

The camera man walked away swearing, unhappy that he didn’t get the video that he had hoped for.

And no legs were broken during the course of this arrest.