by Stacey Warde
We get our share of crazies passing through town. I met one not long ago at Kelley’s Coffee and Espresso Shop, not long before the place closed down. Right away he took a dislike to me—and to just about everyone who crossed his path.
The sheriff’s deputies had earlier informed window washers on the job across the street that they were looking for a scruffy fellow wearing a plaid jacket. Not an easy task in this town. There are a lot of scruffy guys wearing plaid jackets around here.
Apparently he had been spotted waving a stick in a threatening manner at the middle-school up the road, pretending he had a gun.
As one window washer, who had come in for his coffee, described the character, a man, a stranger fitting the description, passed by the window of the coffee shop. “That’s him!” the window washer exclaimed. “That’s him! Should I call the cops?”
“You bet!” I responded just as a squad car drove by the intersection. I rushed out the door and flagged down the squad car.
The deputy turned the car and came back. He rolled down his window. “That’s your guy right there isn’t it?” I nodded.
“Yeah,” the deputy said, offering a look of irritation. He rolled up his window and drove away.
And suddenly there I was left standing alone, the deputy off to who knows where, and the crazy guy raging pissed off at me.
In this climate of gun crazies blowing children to smithereens I figured that I was doing the right thing. “Here’s your man, the one who was waving his hand like he had a gun at the school yard.”
“You got something to say about me, you say it to my face,” the stranger said.
“OK,” I answered, “apparently the cops are looking for a guy whose description you fit to a T, a guy who was seen menacing the children, like he had a gun up at the school.”
“Say gun again and you’ll be sorry,” he threatened.
“The police said ‘gun,’ not me.”
He stared at me menacingly. “Stare into my eyes!”
I snorted a smirk, trying not to laugh.
I didn’t want him to feel threatened or challenged or bothering the other customers. I kept watching for the deputies to pull up any moment.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
He stared me down again, said he was from Oklahoma, asked me if I’d ever seen the bloody Arkansas River.
“No,” I answered. “How did it get bloody?”
“From people I took care of.”
“Are you telling me you’re a killer?”
“Just keep pushing me,” he threatened.
Where are the damned deputies? I kept wondering.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“What’s your name?”
He got up and walked away, rattled. Clearly he was insane and maybe even a buffoon but I didn’t know that. From our brief encounter, I deemed him a threat to me and to the community. Even faking waving a gun at children warrants a response. Apparently, the deputies thought otherwise, despite what they had told the window washers.
I went inside the coffee shop and moments later he came back and sat outside the window facing me, staring at me, giving me the Jedi mind control treatment, disturbing other customers.
I can take care of myself but I didn’t feel like getting into a scrape with him. I just wanted to finish drinking my coffee, reading the newspaper, unmolested by someone who belongs in an institution.
I felt annoyed and threatened. He caused concern among customers and staff. He reportedly made threatening gestures at the school. “He gives me the creeps,” an employee said.
Meanwhile, despite word from the deputies that he had threatened students at the school, he continued to roam free.
Finally, after nearly 30 minutes of staring me down through the window, he came in to borrow the shop phone, saying he had been robbed.
“Sorry, the phone is out of order,” a staffer said.
He went outside and got hold of a cellphone from one of the cyclists who stop in for coffee treats on their road trips up and down Highway 1, the same road that brings the crazies through town.
He called the sheriff’s office on the borrowed phone to report that someone had swiped a Rabobank pen, a freebie the bank gives its customers, from his jacket pocket. The deputies investigated, determined it was a false report and hauled him off to jail.
An arresting deputy said, “Mental health is the problem in this country, not guns. We’ll take him in, have him evaluated.”
The next day, the stranger was back, mad as ever and still raging and threatening.
He pretended again as if he had a gun, this time holding his hand behind his back, while confronting Kelley, owner of the coffee shop. She called the deputies and made a citizen’s arrest.
As the deputy pulled away, the nutter in the back seat threw his head in a jerking motion, lips pursed, as if he was spitting on me and Kelley through the shop window.
He’ll likely be back. Then what? And what about the deputy who left me standing there to confront someone who had been reported seen menacing the children?
I felt exposed and vulnerable, not protected by the deputy’s response to my willingness to help. Later when I mentioned it to another deputy, he seemed perturbed, didn’t want to discuss it.
“We’re too busy,” he said. “I wasn’t here yesterday. I’m here getting the story.”
“I’m part of the story,” I said. He gave me a look, irritated.
“Why is that guy back here?” I persisted. “I thought he was going to be evaluated.” The deputy was clearly more irritated than interested in my questions or my side of the story.
Law enforcement’s response to my willingness to help did little to assure me that they’ve got my back. I felt exposed, unsafe and unprotected by lending my hand to the deputy.
The next time law enforcement seeks my support, I’ll think twice, wondering if the deputy’s action will leave me exposed to threats and danger from those they seek. §
Stacey Warde is the publisher and editor of The Rogue Voice. This article first appeared at his blog, Rogue’s View.