Time for a humorous yet somewhat sad cop story. This really happened one midnight shift about ten years ago.
The night was hot like any Texas summer evening. I was working the midnight shift on a Friday evening, the 95 degree night dragging on endlessly, the heat abating little through the evening. I had stopped at a convenience store for a soft drink. Contrary to legend there really is an element of calm on the streets at 3am, even in urban areas where I worked. I was trying to keep sleep at bay.
As I left the store to get into my unit a female sped into the parking lot waving her arms trying to flag me down. You can never be sure when you see this exactly what might be next. It can be as serious as someone shooting at her or as innocuous as her wanting directions somewhere. She stopped her vehicle, and started talking in the rapid style speech that naturally causes a cop to tell people “Calm down a little and go slower.”
She did slow down a little, telling me, ”There is man at the corner of the intersection, back about a mile, not wearing any of his clothes.” I asked her if she had actually seen him completely naked. She said “Oh yes, he has everything off, I sat through 2 lights to make sure that was really what I was seeing!” Realizing what she had just said she turned crimson red, rolled up her window, wished me luck and took off. I laughed.
I radioed dispatch what she had reported and made my way to the intersection she described.
Sure enough, sitting at the corner with only a brown paper bag was a white male. He was sitting at the corner on this hot Texas night in the clothes God provided at his birth.
There was very little traffic at the intersection given the hour so I turned on my overhead red and blue lights to make my way across the intersection against the traffic signal.
This set up a fright/flight response in my ‘bad boy’. He stood up and began hauling his exposed white buns up the hill behind him, trying to sprint but succeeding only in collecting stickers in his feet. (That’s what we call grass burrs in Texas) He began to hop around, one foot to another, while running and looking back in panic at the approaching police vehicle.
I picked up my amplified microphone for the simple command “Stop running, stop now”.
He did. Just like that he stopped hopping and running and came guiltily wandering back down the hill. I always wondered why folks run if they are only going to stop when you tell them to. It actually happens pretty often. I mean if you’re going to run at least make me chase you; otherwise you’re just wasting energy.
When he reached me at the corner, it went something like this:
(Bear in mind that when you handle someone where you are unsure about their mental status that the cop language can sound a little odd)
Me: Good evening sir. I turned on my lights and wanted to talk with you because I noticed you were not wearing your clothes.
Unidentified male: Sorry, cop car lights scare me even if I haven’t done anything wrong.
Me: Are those your clothes in the paper bag?
Unidentified male: Yes sir.
Me: Before we talk why don’t you put your clothes on.
Unidentified male: Yes sir. (He put on a pair of dirty brown jeans from the bag)
Me: What’s your name sir?
Unidentified male: John.
Me: Do you have your identification in the bag?
John: No sir, but I just told you my name is John.
Me: I know John, but I have to call your name into my helpers to find out about you. What’s your last name?
(I did some communication with the dispatcher at that point regarding a white male named John Millkens, 6 foot, white, brown hair, tattoo of a dagger with a coiled snake on his left upper arm, approximately 30 years old.)
Me: OK John, so whats up with not wearing your clothes tonight?
John: It’s really hot and I needed a ride.
Me: John I know its hot dude. I’m sweating too, but the thing is, you can’t just take off your clothes because you’re hot. Where are you trying to go anyway?
John: Arlington. (Arlington is a neighboring community)
Me: OK. Do you actually live in Arlington?
John: I used to, but I had to go to the hospital and when I went back home someone else lived there. Another time I went back to see if they were still there or if they would let me stay there since I used to live there before them and then they said I had to go back to the hospital again.
Me: John, where did you begin your trip tonight?
John: From the hospital.
Me: John, were you leaving Brookhaven Hospital tonight? (County administered mental evaluation hospital)
John: Yes sir, I was staying at Brookhaven Hospital, but they told me to go home.
Me: So now you’re just trying to get back to your old house?
John: That’s where I’m going, yes sir, I am.
(I gave dispatch the low down in code speak and asked them to try and locate a relative by calling the hospital)
Me: John are you angry with anyone tonight?
John: No sir, I like everybody pretty much. But sometimes it makes me sad when people aren’t nice to me.
Me: Was someone not nice to you tonight John?
John: See all that stuff at the edge of the street there? (He was pointing at the gutter where a good bit of litter had accumulated.) People threw that stuff at me tonight from their cars. I just wanted a ride, but they said really mean things to me and threw things at me. Then they started yelling at me to put my clothes on and called me a ‘retardo’.
Me: Did they hit you with any of those things?
John: Yes sir, one of those batteries hit me under my eye. (He did have a red mark below the eye) One man got out of his car and chased me with a baseball bat, but I ran up the hill and he stopped chasing me, but he threw my clothes out of the bag and into the road before he left.
(Dispatch radioed that John’s older sister had been called and was on her way to our location to get John)
John: Did they say my sister Maggie is coming?
Me: Yes, is Maggie your sister?
John: Yes sir, but sometimes she gets mad at me. She will be mad tonight but I will tell her I’m sorry.
Me: John why do you think people threw things at you tonight? (I hoped to make a point about his not wearing his clothes)
John: Because they don’t know what’s important.
Me: What do you mean John?
John: A man without his clothes isn’t hurting anyone. But batteries do hurt when they hit you in the face. It’s important to be nice and not throw things at other people.
(In a scary instant John was making sense to me)
Me: John I have to go to another call now and I have to go right away, but your sister is coming right here to get you. Promise you will keep your clothes on and stay right here?
John: Why do you have to leave?
Me: My helpers just told me a man is arguing with his wife inside their house John and I have to go help her now.
Me: John, I’m just curious, how was taking off your clothes going to help get a ride?
John: (John looked at me as though I were a complete moron) “Chicks man”, he said. “The chicks at the hospital dug it when I didn’t wear clothes. If I don’t wear my clothes the chicks will pick me up.”
Me: John take care of yourself, I have to go now. Wait here for Maggie.
I left that scene wondering who was the saner between John and his aggressors. After some thoughtfulness I decided John was far saner to not want to wear his clothes on a 95 degree night than people that threw batteries in his face or wanted to beat him with a baseball bat. He appeared to have a clearer understanding of right and wrong.