Six years ago, we got a chocolate toy poodle for our daughter as an early birthday present. My job in the evenings, after it got good and dark, was to walk the puppy up the street to the top of the hill and back to get her a little exercise and to signal to her that it was time to wind down for the day.
It was late October, maybe early November, so it was a cool night, but very comfortable as we walked the 100-150 yards up the street. As I got to the top of the hill, I noticed a vehicle driving up the street. The vehicle was moving very slowly, and the driver killed the lights.
The driver went past my house, and the house across the street wher e the Chow once lived. The vehicle, a red SUV, stops near me. It is on one side of the road, and I am across the road in a yard – oh, about 70 yards or so away from my house – 4 or 5 houses away.
“Come here,” the driver says firmly. “I’m a police officer.”
I am supposed to wear glasses. I don’t have them on. He’s not flashing a badge, and the vehicle doesn’t look like “an unmarked police car.” I can’t see well. I place my hand to my ear, as if I can’t hear, to buy a second to think. He repeats his command.
I’m not sure, so I do the first thing that comes to mind.
I take off, like a perp on the run, in a dead sprint toward my house. So, here’s ol’ Jet, at the height of his weight gain program, checking in at 275 or so, lumbering down the hill, dragging a 5-pound poodle along for the ride. There’s a scene in the movie “Stripes,” where the platoon is running the obstacle course and John Candy is tearing down hill through the woods uncontrollably. You get the picture.
I have no idea if I’m about to be shot in the back, or what will happen.
I cover the 70 yard dash in 8 seconds. OK, maybe 20 seconds. I stumbled up the stairs to my house, skinning my shin on the way. I run inside the door, lock the deadbolt, run to the kitchen door to make sure it’s locked, and zip around to the back sliding glass door, and double check it.
I yell to the kids, “Get in the basement, middle room, and don’t come out until I tell you. NOW!!!”
ElTurbo wants to question me. I yell, “I said, “Now!! Emergency!”
Mrs. Jet is in the shower, and I bust in, “Get out of the shower! Now! Emergency. Here’s your robe. Go downstairs with the kids. Don’t come out!”
She gives me that look I get once a week when she wonders “Who is this lunatic I married?”
I grab the phone, and I point at her, directing her toward the basement. I dial 911. I am on the verge of hyperventilation. My chest is heaving rapidly. My pulse is hammering.
The 911 operator answers.
“Yes this is ……….., and I live at 284 …………….. Drive. There is a man on our street impersonating a police officer. I don’t know if he was going to rob me or what.”
The operator pauses, “Hold on, sir.”
“Mr. …………….., it WAS a police officer.”
“Uh, there is a, uh, situation in your neighborhood. It’s better that you lock your doors and stay inside. Everything is under control, but please remain indoors. Thank you.”
And she hangs up.
I run to the basement to explain to my bewildered family why I look like a salivating maniac. We all start to head upstairs, and the phone rings.
I answer it.
“Yes, Mr. --------. This is the 911 operator. The officer who spoke to you would like to come into your home. “
“He wants to use it as a base of operation.”
“Yes, the situation in your neighborhood is at the house across the street.”
“Don’t worry. Everything is under control. The SWAT team is in place.”
I return to Psycho Man again, chasing the family back downstairs into the basement. I close all the blinds on the front of the house, and turn every light off. I hang out in Stewardess’ bedroom, slightly separating the blinds to see what is going on. I know there is a young man who lives there – early 30s, engaged to a woman who lives out of town.
After 5 minutes, I call the 911 operator.
“Where’s the officer?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, he is based somewhere else now.”
Five minutes pass, the phone rings again.
“Sir, hello, it’s the 911 operator again. Do you happen to know your neighbors on
either side of you, and on either side of the house across the strreet?”
“Please call them and ask them to under no circumstances come outside.”
All I can think about is my next door neighbor. He gets a whiff of this, and he’ll camo up and be in the middle of it.
The good news is that he goes to bed early. I tell his wife what is going on, and she says, “You know I can’t tell ------------.”
“Absolutely not,” I say.
I made the rest of the calls, and I call the 911 operator back to advise them the neighbors have been apprised.
Over the next 30-45 minutes, I see a person walk around from the back of the house with a cell phone, talking on the cell. Walking back and forth every five minutes or so.
Then another car, which looks like unmarked police car, rides up and parks in front the house. A tall figure gets out and stands in the middle of the yard, talking on his cell phone for a long while.
Mrs. Jet, ElTurbo and the Stewardess keep trying to come upstairs, but I shoo them back down.
The guy comes around from the back of the house again, and he’s waving his arms and yelling.
Then, out of the trees, out the bushes, from under a car, come five SWAT team guys and they scoop up this guy, carry him away like a roll of carpet, and stuff him in another car I hadn’t noticed that was two doors down.
The main cop strides into the house, and four more SWAT team guys file in behind him. A few minutes later, the guy who lives in the house is carried out in cuffs.
The all clear is given, and the neighbors start pouring out of the houses.
When I get outside, I realize the main cop in charge was actually the sheriff. We weren’t buddies, but we knew each other.
“You have fun tonight, -------?” he said. Then he spoke authoritatively to the group. Everything’s fine. More show than anything else.
It turned out that the guy’s fiance wasn’t coming to Alabama to marrying him because her husband and three kids – that he didn’t know about – wanted her to stay.
He called his family and his best friend in a drunken stupor and pronounced that he was going to end it all. They called the law, and the law called him on the phone, and he invited them over and as many who wanted to join him in checking out were more than welcome.
That activated the SWAT team.
The sheriff said the man wouldn’t hurt a flea. Everybody seemed fine with that, and then the SWAT team members started collecting his firearms, as prescribed by law. He had an arsenal that would have made a National Guard armory jealous – assault rifles, hunting rifles, shotguns, pistols.
I walked up to the officer that orginally tried to stop me to apologize and explain myself.
He started laughing. “You shoulda seen yourself, dragging that dog down the hill. I’da paid to see the movie of it. No problem. At least you called 911 to check me out.”