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Thirteen years ago today I walked out of jail a freed man...
This story contains graphic details of an incident between me and a police officer. At any point if you find yourself activated...STOP...it's ok to put this down for another time...or never. THIS WILL EVOKE A RESPONSE.
I vividly recall the warmth of the sun on my face, the cool gentle breeze on my skin—and the pure pleasure of the thirty minute walk of joy back to my downtown loft apartment.
I called my mom and told her, “Mom, I just got out of jail”
She responded, “April Fool’s sweetie…you got me!”
“No mom, I’m literally walking out of jail.”
I had been arrested around 1:30am on April 1st, 2007.
Less than two months after relocating from the east coast to another world—Wichita, Kansas—to work as a Manufacturing R&D engineer for a Fortune 500 Aerospace company.
I was just 23 years old.
My roommate and I were out at our favorite bar, one of only a handful in “Old Town”.
Strangely, it was common practice for the police to clear the bars out around closing time.
So, why on this night was I arrested and charged with three misdemeanors?
Because I talked back to a police officer, the way an angry and defiant teenager might talk back to his parents.
Except this wasn’t my parents, this was an armed officer, whose job definitely wasn’t to love me through my defiance.
While standing outside the bar, but on the bar’s property, I fumbled with my flip phone to text my roommate to meet me outside.
As I was texting, I looked up and saw a police officer standing in front of me. He told me and some others to leave.
I ignored him, looked down, and continued texting.
Next thing, a hand is own my shoulder and I’m being pushed quite hard, as I hear a commanding voice shout “get out of here…”
“Don’t fucking touch me”
Words which echo in my mind to this day.
Was I drunk? Yes.
Was I a threat? Well, that depends on who you ask.
Were my words and physical stance a perceived threat to the officer? Maybe
Regardless, it was cause for him to throw his hand into my face and tackle me to the ground.
On this night, I was chosen to demo how not to engage with a police officer.
“STOP RESISTING” he shouted, as he wrestled me to the concrete and wrangled me onto my stomach
“I’m not resisting…”
At supercomputer speed, I attempted to compute the situation, but could not keep up with the stream of data.
Then it happened.
I was struck by lightning.
…and without choice, I shrilled and screamed at the top of my lungs.
A circle had formed around us and I heard a women’s voice yell, “Holy shit, he tazed him”
The compassion in her voice provided a brief waft of comfort.
My body locked up and I became stiff as a board.
I cried and screamed, “I’M NOT RESISTING” as he drove all 240 pounds of muscle, armor, and anger through three square inches of hard knee pad, into my back.
I felt his fingers make their way into my ‘jew fro’.
I could feel his gloved hand clench and make a fist around my long hair as my hair ripped at the roots.
Without warning he began to slam my face and head into the ground, quite aggressively (later evidenced by bruises and scrapes on my face).
Some voice echoed, what is happening?
Apparently I was resisting his efforts to ‘cuff me.
He then contorted my arms into seemingly insolvable and deeply painful lock, which I did not know the combination for.
As far as I knew though, I wasn’t resisting, which made the situation more complex.
I could not figure out—let alone at the speed required—how to give him what he demanded of me.
My mind and thought were inconsequential—this was primal—and anything my body did was wrong.
Was I consciously resisting? No.
Was I intoxicated, frozen in terror, dissociated, and in shock—yes, yes, yes, and yes.
After the demonstration was complete, he lifted me up by my elbows and escorted me to a paddy wagon.
On the way over I saw my roommate leaning up against a police car, he was being handcuffed by another officer.
We made eye contact and smiled, I couldn’t tell who was more confused him or me.
The way the officer spoke to me, as he read me my rights and explained what was going to happen, was frighteningly insensitive and matter of fact.
I remember crying as I sat on the cold steel bench, awaiting the drive to jail.
I could not believe what was happening—yet what I did or did not believe, did not matter.
This was happening—and I was definitely not in control.
Whether I liked the taste or not, I was drinking this premium top shelf liquor of trauma.
A liquor I knew well, through many losses of consciousness due to diabetic seizures during my childhood and teenage years.
A discombobulation and terror that was all too familiar.
Yet this time, the paramedics—and uniformed officers—weren’t here to protect me or to save my life.
No-one was here to protect me, but me, and I had handcuffs on my wrists.
Anger, rage, shame, guilt, sorrow, sadness—all of it and none of it—coursed through my body, quicker than the bolt of electricity from his taser.
Tears streamed down my face as I awaited an uncertain night.
I sat in that steel cage on wheels, anxiously awaiting the others I knew would be joining me for the ride to jail.
“At least I won’t be alone”, I thought.
I waited, but no one joined me.
Thirty minutes later the engine started.
I guess it’s just me.
And the pain.
The pain that had been riding by my side for so many years.
He was right, I was resisting, but I wasn’t resisting him—or what he was doing to my body.
I was resisting, through drinking, drugs, food substitutes and strip clubs, the existential torment, which laughed into my ear,
“so, did you enjoy your spa treatment?”
I cried and cried.
That is, until we arrived to the station gate and pulled up to the ‘unloading dock’.
I knew then that it was time to stop crying.
My heart was pounding.
The steel doors swung open.
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