Tag Archives: law enforcement

Embrace the shining sea

CITY LIFE.COPS.SMILEY FACEEditor’s Note: In the wake of several instances of police brutality and the militarization of law enforcement in the U.S., as reported in the news recently, we decided to revisit Steven Bird’s essay about brutality of a similar sort here on the Central Coast, this from our own Morro Bay Police Department. Abusive police actions are not just a big city problem. This essay originally appeared in the July, 2008, print edition of The Rogue Voice.

By Steven Bird

You can’t see the open ocean from inside the harbor behind the windblown peninsula of sand dunes. You don’t see it until you’re already making way into the humping turbulence of the bar at the harbor entrance — between the rock jetties — and there it is, the shining sea spread like eternity opened to receive you. You head her into the swell both hands tight on the tiller surrendering your connections to dense land, afloat, at the mercy of the sparkling vicious loving void, indefinite rhythms, foam, angles of sun…yet all seems secretly well. And perhaps this is how we are received in death. Or maybe, the way we enter into living. Ah well. There it is.

The boat rocks gently, tied against the north T-pier.

Take care of the boat and the boat’ll take care of you. Been fishing hard all week and, well, stink accumulates — soon as I’m done cleaning the boat and squaring the gear away for the next go-round I’m out of here. 8:30 already. Hate to say it but my ass is dragging. Would’ve been done an hour ago except for the four Fish and Game cops waiting over at the receiver dock when I unloaded my fish. They’re checking every day lately. More of them than there are fishermen, really. You barely have time to fish you’re so busy being boarded and checked out — Coast Guard, Fish and Game, Homeland Defense, MPA cops…as if commercial fishing, regardless how innocuous the method, is somehow a nefarious activity…and these guys aren’t your old-fashion, pipe-smoking, friendly ranger game wardens in green Smokey Bear suits. Nossir. They’re the new breed: slit-lipped, stone-faced, black and blue S.W.A.T. uniforms, pants tucked into their boots, guns that look like Uzzis, radios, belts, bulletproof vests…all business. Held me up for an hour while they checked the fish, the boat, my paperwork…just like they did yesterday, and the day before that. Oh, I know their names; they know mine, they’ve talked to me a hundred times but always act like they never saw me before, demanding to see the same paperwork…I guess it’s a way to create jobs. But it smells like warfare. I don’t know who’s really behind it, or what it’s for, but it feels like I’m going down, no question.

‘My pickup truck is well used and unavoidably rusty, the bed filled with fishing junk, and I know this makes me a target for the cops who profile scruffy characters driving older vehicles.’

A chill breeze courses from the northwest; flags on the moored boats snap in full salute.

The Harbor Folly cruises by, a fake riverboat, artificial stem wheel churning the oily bay. Tourists sipping wine on the top deck, realizing that this is no tropical cruise, pull sweaters over their Hawaiian shirts. I bet they wish they’d worn long pants. (Utopian Cali is a land of denial and delusions. Weather Denial is a tradition. And a favorite delusion is that coastal California has a climate similar to Hawaii.) The usual crowd strolls the pier and embarcadero, mostly apple-shaped women from Fresno and Bakersfield, laconic husbands in tow. A local mermaid wiggles through the pokey couples, a different species, almost. Just folks enjoying themselves ordered and behaved.

You don’t see people raising hell in this town. People come here to fuck in the motels and dawdle through the bayside shops—you know, the usual beach town tourist stuff. It’s 8:45 p.m., I’m just about finished with the boat.

A patrol car slides down the embarcadero. Up on the pier a fat kid sporting a black T-shirt advertising MEGADEATH throws French fries into an agitated mob of seagulls. Another squad car slips by the kite shop at the entrance to the pier.

Nine o’clock straight up, and the cops are getting busy…looks like the town’s entire fleet of patrol cars swarming the waterfront street, cruising like bat rays, chrome flashing shifting shapes. I wonder what’s going down.

The atmosphere distorts the light coming into the world—the dying red sun flattens against the seaward dunes beyond the harbor. Gulls call from a purple sky, lift on the hysterical breeze, heads tilting, alert for scraps.

I have to drive through the dragnet to get home. Though legally operative, my pickup truck is well used and unavoidably rusty, the bed filled with fishing junk, and I know this makes me a target for the cops who profile scruffy characters driving older vehicles. I’m extra cautious, don’t want to give them the slightest excuse—I pull up to the one stop sign I have to get through on my way out of the kill zone, and stop, while signaling a left turn.

A patrol car pulls up to the stop facing me. Another unit pulls up behind me.

The farthest thing from my mind is the idea of running the stop sign. Only a moron would run the stop with the cops right there watching. I know that there is a three-second interval that one must be stopped for. I give it a five-count just to be sure. Light a smoke—and okay, here we go—put the rig in gear and proceed through, around the corner and up the hill leading away from the bay—

God I am hungry

The unit facing me at the stop lights up and comes after me. The cruiser behind me lights up too, swerves by in full-tilt pursuit of somebody else while I pull over to the curb.

The searchlight trained on the rear window lights up the cab bright as an operating room. I roll the window down….

‘The cop rips at me like a jackal trying to extract a turtle from its shell.’

“Good evening sir, see your license and registration please.”

Young guy, shaved head, seems friendly, “perky” you might say—he leans in close, sniffing while I hand him my license and insurance proof. “Sir have you had anything to drink tonight?”

“I don’t drink. Just got off my boat from fishing—and, ah, by the way, uh, what’d you stop me for?”

He stiffens, “Sir you ran that stop back there.” He pins me with his eyes making sure I’m on the hook, turns and marches back to his car with my papers to check for warrants. While he’s back there he writes me a ticket for running the stop—

He hands it too me, wants me to sign it—“Waitaminit! You and I both know I didn’t run that stop sign…I know you’re fishing for drunks and need an excuse to make the stop, I’m cool with that…you can see I haven’t been drinking…so why do you have to write me a bogus ticket, anyway?”

He counters, presents an inarguable logic—“I stopped a guy going 100 miles an hour last night. How would you like it if I hadn’t got him off the road…?”

I can’t stop myself—“What has that got to do with our situation? And you lying?” I hear myself saying, trying to remain pragmatic, and believing I will prevail because Truth is on my side.

“You don’t like the police…do you? I think you have a problem with the police,” he tells me. His hand in the window frame squeezing the top of my door is tight and wary and ready to spring.

“No,” I say, “I don’t have a problem with the police. But I do have a problem with you abusing your function as a civil servant.

One hand clenches, unclenches, close to his gun.

I’ve heard stories recently about a cop in town who entertains a fondness for squirting his mace can in folk’s faces at the slightest perceived provocation…. In addition to hungry, dirty, tired, on another level I’m feeling profiled, disenfranchised, disappointed, disrespected, desperate, mad and about to go off like a fuck you machine gun and martyr myself for the cause.

My family, my friends, they probably wouldn’t want me to martyr myself…their mournful angelic faces attend me.

But the inertia of events is too compelling, too intriguing, too exhilarating, I have broken free of my mooring—“This is bullshit.” And I can’t stop the emphasis—“Fuck you. I’m not signin’ this.”

“ALLRIGHT SIR GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE!” He yells at me taking a step back releasing the safety snap on his holster.

“I don’t think so,” I say, holding the ticket book out the window, blithely opening my fingers—it hits the pavement with a sad rustling sound. I don’t know what I plan to do now….

He charges the door—it’s locked, but the window’s rolled down—he can’t get the door open so he reaches through the window, grabs me and he’s trying to rip me out of the truck through the window—I resist, struggle, kick the ashtray out of the dashboard—he’s got his arm around my throat trying to pull my head and shoulders through, bending me while twisting my head, he’s trying to break my neck—I’m holding on to the door frame—he frees one hand to pull something from a holder on his service belt—

At pointblank range a cool mist wets my face, eyes, mouth, soothing, like rain, or a gentle friend applying a healing unguent—something explodes—an agonizing red curtain falls—a molten death mask clings to my face—my face is burning—the cop rips at me like a jackal trying to extract a turtle from its shell—the nice hooded sweatshirt Ariel gave me for Christmas catches on something, tears open—the ridges along my spine saw against the window frame on the ride through—I hook my knees over the door—he jerks harder—I straighten my legs, come loose right when he jerks—he loses his balance, stumbles backwards and we go down on the pavement together. We lay in odd juxtaposition. I’m blind. He’s got me in a choke hold. His heart’s pounding against my back. H’e’s afraid. Relax…he’s tensing…here comes the flip…the pavement…. He is wheezing with fear—his knee grinding into the center of my back—furious fingers dig the back of my headhe’s forcing my face into the asphalt…merciless gravel teeth of blacktop…. The pavement under my face tastes warm, wet, salty.

Lights. Peripheral RED WHITE BLUE flashes, doors opening, metal jangling, radios, shouts, shoes scraping—sounds like two units…must be four cops…here they come…the boots—my buddy already has my top half covered, they work on what’s exposed—feet, legs, knees, thighs, lower ribs, they keep kicking me in the kidneys—there is a curious rhythm to the kicking, the guys are in sync—one cop chanting….

ASSHOLE ASSHOLE ASSHOLE…A couple of the other cops take up the chant, they’ve got the rhythm going—kicking and chanting—and it’s going down. The kicks produce a numbness, I feel the weight of the boots’ impacts but not the pain, and 0 that there would be pain to shield me from this sickness of heart, this raging and howling desolation of spirit more terrifying than pain—I pray—I pray…0 God…help me…help me make it through the kicking…if l can just make it through the kicking…if I can just make it through…0 God where is the thundering iron shield of your love…?

The cop on my back yells “GIVE ME YOUR ARM!” He’s got a hold of it, I don’t feel myself resisting, but that is not enough, he wants me to give it to him while he is in the process of trying to twist it off—a flurry of kicks comes hard and fast—the rhythm again….

They bend my arms to an impossible angle and put the cuffs on. Now the cop sitting on me starts yelling, “GET UP! SIR?…GET UP! SIR?…YOU GONNA GET UP MOTHERFUCKER…?” But he’s sitting on me. I can’t respond. His body turns to stone…he throws an astounding punch to the side of my head—I can’t protect my ear from the blow—the watery burst inside my head heralds a vision of verdant fields of changing shapes…like flowers within flowers, within flowers…there is a faint buzz…a bee…a bee coming to pollinate the flowers…the volume increases to a despairing roar setting the synaptic flowers atremble in the forlorn gardens.

I regain consciousness down at county. I’m alive. Somebody is trying to take my thumb print, but I can’t make my body work to do what the moving mouth is requesting. Moving Mouth punches me in the face—the cops pile on me—must be three or four cops—they’re hitting each other in the frenzy to get me—the souls have vacated their flesh—their eyes glisten, fierce, delighted—0 sorrow of their eyes—couple of detectives come running from their desks—savage smiles—they get their licks in—shirts and ties mixed with the uniforms—they break something—I hear laughter—something inside of me is broken—I don’t feel it like regular pain.

They throw me in a small concrete holding cell.

I lay on the rigid floor in the void gray cell. A subtle vibration resonates through the concrete. Machinery throbs somewhere. The walls and ceiling are the color of fog. The floor is the same gun barrel blue as the sea after a storm. I like the cool floor, let it receive my watery cheek. My swollen eyes shed a continuous flow of tears from the mace. I sight down the silver rivulet beginning to form a lonely stream flowing away from my face seeking a path of least resistance, this way, that way, as nuances of concrete surface dictate, until the tear stream becomes lost in the shining expanse. There are no walls, no edges, only clean distance. Light comes from all angles. The surface shimmers, turned to water. Ocean of serenity, joyous sun, I commit myself to you. I embrace the shining sea surrendering. I head my boat into the wind and swell. §

Steven Bird writes from his home in Morro Bay where he can avoid the clutches of rogue cops.


Oscar Higueros Jr., volunteer Cayucos fireman arrested on charges of rape.

Oscar Higueros Jr., volunteer Cayucos fireman arrested on charges of rape.

by Stacey Warde

Yes, let’s talk about Somebody’s Daughter.

Larry Narron’s fictional account of a woman, abused as a child by her father, confronting the ailing, aged man in his later years, could have come right out of a bedroom scene here in Cayucos, as we learned last week when Oscar Higueros, Jr., a volunteer fireman, was arrested for the rape of a 17-year-old girl, and charged with 33 felonies, including forced sodomy and oral copulation, threatening a witness, and possession of cocaine.

A lot has been said about the merits of the case and about Higueros’ character but little about the alleged victim. What people seem to have forgotten is that the victim is somebody’s daughter, not unlike the one in Larry’s story. Little has been said about this child and how we might in the future protect her and other youth in our community from child sexual abuse.

These alleged crimes took place in a home not far from any of us. Why not give some due consideration to the real victim in this case, and to other potential victims who live in our community? Why do we so quickly dismiss the victims in our midst and go to the defense of an accused rapist just because he’s a fireman?

And, why in the digitally social world of data inundation do we resort to flaming, illogic and basic  stupidity when commenting on these events? You would think from many responses defending Higueros in the week since his arrest that he’s the victim. “He’s a fireman. No fireman would put someone at risk like that,” I’ve heard. “We don’t need to know what he did,” I’ve also heard.

“I hate the fact that such personal information can be public knowledge,” wrote one commenter after I’d posted a news item about the case on my Facebook wall.

A lesson in Civics 101 ensued, in which we discussed the importance in a free society of knowing when someone is arrested and what for. Eventually, the commenter removed her comments, but the protest against media hype continues, even as details of the case come mostly from press releases distributed by the district attorney’s office.

I’ve also heard others warn: Don’t point your fingers until you know all the facts. I don’t know all the facts but I do know when to be cautious, when to pay attention, and when to withhold judgment. Also, there’s the implied “don’t judge unless you want the skeletons in your own closet to be exposed.” Well, now, there’s an idea.

Comments on news sites covering the case show even more ignorance, not only of what goes on under our noses, but of the process of jurisprudence and of how we stay informed and safe in a democratic society. Flamers attacked news site KSBY, for example, for “sensationalizing,” when the facts of the case itself, coming to us directly from the district attorney’s office, are sensational enough. It won’t matter what KSBY or any news outlet reports, flamers will still accuse them of doing it only “because they want publicity.”

Some news agencies do that but most reporters I’ve known over the years do it because they want the community to know the truth, even when it’s an unpleasant truth. Is Higueros guilty? Not until a jury decides.

Regarding the alleged victim, I’ve heard: “Well, she’s probably some tart from the Bay Area, who was looking for some thrills and asking for it.”

No, she’s somebody’s daughter. We’re not talking schoolboy prank here. A child was manipulated and violated, according to the DA. Regardless of whether she was an angel, it doesn’t matter. She’s still a child. Yet, there’s more wringing of hands for an alleged rapist, because he’s a “good guy,” or a hard worker, or a volunteer fireman.

So-called “nice” people do bad things, even firemen. And young girls do get into trouble and it’s our job to make sure they don’t; it’s our job to protect them from predators who want to use them for their own profit and pleasure.

The judge set bail at $1 million, then raised it to $1.2 million during Higueros’ arraignment after charges of human trafficking were made against a second perp in the case. That suggests more than a slight moral lapse or minor indiscretion from someone with high marks for serving the community as a paid volunteer fireman.

It’s quite possible, as often happens in these cases, that law enforcement has overzealously trumped up the charges, but I doubt it. It’s the judge’s job to determine the strength and validity of a case, and this judge concurs, at this point, that the accused, Higueros, is a threat to the community. He will likely stay in jail for a very long time, at least until the court sorts out the facts and details of the case to determine his guilt or innocence. Meanwhile, expect to learn more disturbing details about this case in the weeks and months ahead.

This teenage girl, somebody’s daughter, remember, is not unlike the one in Larry’s story, who will similarly grow up one day and be forced to confront the demons of her past. We would do better to imagine how we might help her and prevent another young girl or boy in our community from falling into the clutches of predators than to fret over whether the accused was a good guy or not. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice.

Trampling the First Amendment in a small town by the sea

Even the chamber of commerce asked us to remove our rack from its vicinity. Images by Stacey Warde

Some readers felt we had crossed a line. Even the chamber of commerce asked us to remove our rack from its vicinity. Images by Stacey Warde

by Stacey Warde

In the early days of the Rogue Voice, when it was still merely a monthly newsprint journal, we published a story about what prisoners do when they get horny.

Tito David Valdez, Jr., doing 25-years-to-life for conspiracy to commit murder, wrote an essay about “Hittin’ it,” an intimate look at the secret ways inmates find opportunities to masturbate or get off without being observed in a well-guarded penal institution.

We also learned about lady boys in mini-skirts who look fabulous and would by all appearances seem to be real women, except for the fact they weren’t, and how most inmates, like David, avoided unnecessary drama and complications in prison, by not getting involved.

It was an informative and educational narrative. David’s column, a regular known to readers as “Life in the Cage,” and all his other subsequent columns, gave taxpayers a close-up, insider’s view of how their dollars were being spent to incarcerate convicted felons.

But one meddlesome mom from our fair village by the sea didn’t like his column. She felt we had stepped over the line, and offended the community standard for frank talk about prison sex in ‘06.

As any good moralist, she decided to take action. She meant to protect her teenage daughter and other impressionable youth in our town from the adult content, and unseemly influence of our magazine, which was then in 2006 only four months old.

Like an enormous huffing beast, she stormed into the coffee shop where I was talking with a friend and barreled into the rear of the shop where we kept stacks of our magazine. I felt her rage as she passed by me.

Seconds later, she came back our way, a full stack of Rogue Voices stuffed under her arm. “Hey, wait a minute!” I demanded. “Where do you think you’re going with those?”

“I’m going to make a barbecue out of these,” she fumed, heading for the door.

“No you’re not!” I answered. “I work my ass off to put out those damned magazines. Put them back, right now!”

She harrumphed, breathing loudly and laboriously through her nose. I felt as if she were about to punch me, but she turned away, with close to 100 of my magazines stuffed under her arm, and walked out the door of the coffee shop.

A sheriff’s deputy arrived. The barista, a contributor and editor and supporter of the magazine, had called for law enforcement to protect my First Amendment right to free speech.

The angry mom had stolen that right. She was violating state, federal and constitutional law.

The deputy dutifully questioned me, asked me what was the problem, and I told him that a woman had walked out of the coffee shop with a stack of my magazines and threatened to burn them.

“Well, why should I help you,” he said finally, “when you write negative stories about law enforcement?”

Dell Franklin had recently written a first-hand account of the City of San Luis Obispo’s fascist policing operation to intimidate Mardi Gras revelers by bringing in hundreds of police from around the state to control the unruly student mob.

By many accounts, including Dell’s, the police, called upon to keep order, were as likely to create disorder—randomly shooting bean-bag rounds into parties, freely harassing passersby on the street, detaining and questioning revelers—as students were to misbehave by celebrating the centuries old annual tradition of upending the conventions of culture.

Dell’s article offered graphic evidence of police going a bit too far, terrorizing college students who were minding their own business.

Tired of moralists trashing our publication, we ran a full-page ad reminding them of another standard.

Tired of moralists trashing our publication, we ran a full-page ad reminding them of another standard.

“Your job,” I reminded the deputy, “is to protect my First Amendment right to free speech. It doesn’t matter whether you like what I print.” I pointed my finger in the direction where I’d last seen the angry mom walking out the door with my property: “She’s violating my right to free speech. What she’s doing is illegal.”

He thought for a moment. “It’s a free magazine, isn’t it?”

“That doesn’t mean she can take the whole stack!”

In fact, state Assemblyman George Plescia, a Republican from San Diego, had recently authored, and the legislature passed, a bill, AB2612, protecting free newspapers and magazines from abusers lifting full stacks off the racks. Apparently, San Diego was having the same problem. The offense carried a sizable fine.

“We must work to ensure that no one is able to deprive others of their First Amendment rights,” then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement on AB2612. “The freedom of the press is one of the most precious freedoms that Americans enjoy.”

The deputy left, presumably to consult with the offending party, and asked me to wait. He returned and informed me that the woman had been reminded that it’s my right to publish what I want and that she didn’t have the right to refuse it.

“Where’re my magazines?” I asked.

“They’re gone,” he said.

I was too angry to press the matter about the fate of that stack of magazines. I did not want to be thrown in jail for harassing or assaulting an officer.

I wrote a letter to Plescia, thanking him for protecting my First Amendment rights, while local law enforcement and would-be protectors of community standards thought less of those rights than they should.

“I edit and publish a free monthly literary journal,” I noted after thanking him, “which has had its share of vandalism from those who object to its content.

“Until now, our only support [has come] from readers who do not want others deciding for them what they can or cannot read.

“Thanks for your support. We lift our hats to you, Mr. Plescia, for your defense of our First Amendment right to a free press.”

As regards community standards and federal guidelines for offensive material, we avowed again in our pages the value of reading, of determining for oneself whether there are any redeeming qualities in our content, which would then guarantee its full protection under the law.

Not content with literally trashing our magazine, the angry mom rounded up a herd of like-minded matrons to pester local businesses to cease advertising in our magazine or to quit displaying the Rogue Voice on their premises, which is their perfect right.

The Cayucos Chamber of Commerce, coerced, asked us to remove our rack from its vicinity. We lost one advertiser while another said: “Tell those gals to get a life!”

Those “gals,” I noted in a 2006 February column titled “Our naughty little rag,” were going about town, raging to this or that business owner, “to protest its unseemly content, and to protect our impressionable teens from words like ‘fuck’ and ‘titty.’”

We were amazed that our troublesome youth had given up the internet and cell phones to go in “search of colorful language in the pages of our…morally reprehensible rag. It’s hard to imagine youngsters,” I mused, “pulling themselves away from their computers to actually read a newspaper; more terrible to think they’re reading one with naughty words.”

Oddly, or perhaps not so odd, the small-town upheaval came on the heels of an earlier trashing of another publication in which it seemed everyone everywhere in the county felt they had a moral duty to censor content they didn’t like.

Local alternative weekly New Times had published a story about methamphetamine by Alice Moss that also included a recipe on how to make the stuff. Residents went berserk, lifting the rag off racks throughout San Luis Obispo County and sending them to the landfill.

An eery absence of the weekly could be seen on virtually every rack in the county. Not one New Times could be found any where. The article itself had been informative enough and may have actually had some redeeming social value, despite its loony and irresponsible instructions on how to make meth.

A better method for informing readers about the ease of making meth would have been to take a photo of and list the ingredients. Let some fool decide how to put it all together. Good citizens, meanwhile, took it upon themselves to protect hapless individuals from the dubious joys of meth-making by eliminating the newspaper’s presence from our community.

The hysteria broke national news.

Amid the frenzy of throwing newspapers into the trash, KVEC hometown radio host Dave Congalton asked me and Dell to go on the air to discuss the issue. Many callers agreed that while they may not like what our publication prints, it’s our legal right to publish as we see fit. In fact, despite our “liberal” label, as some claimed, our most vocal defenders were more often conservatives.

It wasn’t the last time hoodlums took it upon themselves to sabotage our publishing efforts. Throughout the county, we continually heard reports from our friends that individuals were helping themselves to stacks of our magazine and making them disappear.

Finally, we’d had enough and ran a full-page photo on the back cover of the Rogue Voice showing nothing but a bible sitting on our rack, no magazines, with the headline, “Thou shalt not steal.”

It may not have made any difference in whether people trashed our magazine but it made us feel better, and we got a good laugh out of it. More importantly, we continued to publish, 32 more editions in all, without apology, and with a commitment to give voice to those who don’t often have a voice, protected by the First Amendment. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of TheRogueVoice.com

Crazy comes to Cayucos

And suddenly there I was left standing alone, the deputy off to who knows where, and the crazy guy raging pissed off at me.

And suddenly there I was left standing alone, the deputy off to who knows where, and the crazy guy raging pissed off at me. Photos by Stacey Warde

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.

COMMENT.CRAZY.IMG_4055“I thought so,” he said, as if he’d judged me an easy target, a weakling. Then he followed me to Kelley’s. We sat out front at one of the tables.

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.

No answer.

“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.