Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Different Sort of Hospital Room

I suppose that while I'm experiencing things I've barely heard of (like leukemia) or never heard of (like Graft-vs-Host Disease), I might as well just run the gamut of life adventures.

I was arrested for assaulting a police office last night. That's not the sort of thing I thought I would ever experience in my life.

Let me tell you the story.

I was released to long term care back in May, and I returned to my home here in Selmer. My son, who turned 18 in March and had spent much of the last year staying with friends here at Rose Creek Village, was arrested for shoplifting just a week after we got back.

Shoplifting is a crime, so I don't want to downplay it. In fact, my son told me later that he was more worried about our reaction (my wife and my) than about spending a night in jail. However, it was not a major shoplifting scene. It was all personal items like shampoo and razors. The manager of WalMart told me that it was one of the most unusual shoplifting scenes she'd experienced. The merchandise wasn't the typical shoplifting booty, and my son was polite, quiet, and cooperative.

We posted bail the following morning, got a court date for him, and went in expecting him to get a slap on the wrist. We were confident he had learned his lesson, and this was a first time offense for a kid only two months over 18.

Nope. He got 10 days in jail, a fine, and almost a year of probation.

That seemed pretty stiff to me, but I don't know anything about court sentences. I've never been arrested.

It seemed pretty stiff to a local attorney, too. He's probably the best attorney in town, and he's an acquaintance. A friend of mine called him, and the attorney was floored. He went to the court to make sure we weren't leaving something out of the story.

When he saw we weren't, he was furious. He called the sentence immoral, and he filed an appeal on our behalf, thus putting the jail sentence, fine, and probation costs on hold.

Our appeal is set for August 24, and we thought everything was fine.

Last week, the probation office called and told Caleb he needed to come right in and pay his fine. My son told him the case was being appealed. The officer looked in the computer, verified the appeal, and apologized. "All taken care of," he said.

Over the course of last week. we have been enrolling him in a college. He's getting both an academic and a soccer scholarship. My wife and I have been giving thanks to God for how smoothly the admissions process is going. We thought when I came back in May that it was far too late to help him get in college and get enough scholarships to be able to afford it. But now, everything is happening in two weeks without our even trying. This was somewhat dropped on us.

So yesterday, even though the admissions process can't be finished until Friday, he went with the university soccer team for a physical. All the players have to pass a physical to be able to play.

When he got back, in the late evening, a deputy called saying he needed my son to sign some papers. Caleb told them he was home, and they showed up just after 11:00 at night.

The papers turned out to be a warrant for his arrest for "Failure To Appear." Apparently, no one updated the sheriff department's computer with the appeal, so they just issued a warrant. No one double checked it.

When my son told me they were arresting them, I went to the deputies and told them this was a mistake. The conversation went something like this.

Me: "This is a clerical error. His case is on appeal, and he wasn't supposed to show up for jail."

Deputy: "We just carry out warrants, sir. We have no choice. It says arrest him; we have to arrest him."

Me: "This is ridiculous. It's been six weeks since he was supposed to appear. You guys called him on the phone last week and tonight. Couldn't you have called him on the phone during the day when we could have checked computers, called our lawyer, or something, rather than showing up in the middle of the night to arrest him?"

Deputy: "We have nothing to do with that. We can serve warrants 24 hours a day."

Me: "I agree that you can."

Deputy: "Yes we can."

Me: "But just because you can doesn't mean it isn't stupid."

I wish I would have thought of the word "immoral" rather than stupid.

The argument went on like that with me getting more heated, and the deputy saying there's nothing I can do about it, so both deputies turned around and walked toward our front door with my son between them.

Caleb had just made himself a bowl of cereal, and it was on the kitchen counter, which is about 10 feet from the front door. In fury, I swept the bowl of cereal off the counter towards our microwave, coffee machine, and other gadgets. Realizing it was going to make a terrible mess, at the last second I steered the bowl towards the refrigerator instead.

I got the refrigerator, which is only about 5 feet from the front door, and a little milk splashed on the deputy I'd been arguing with. He claims the bowl hit him, too, but I don't know how that's possible unless it bounced off the refrigerator. (This paragraph has been edited because my son told me the deputy only had a few drops of milk on his arm. I guess I didn't notice until he had wiped off his sleeve at the jail, and his sleeve was all wet from cleaning it.)

You could see his fury rise. It took about three or four seconds for him to announce he was arresting me for assaulting a police officer. Then he pulled out his taser, pointed it at me and ordered me to get on the floor.

Having been in the military and having been detained by military police due to security system errors a couple times, I thought "on the floor" meant get on my knees with my hands away from my body.

Nope. It meant lay on my face on the carpet, and he started screaming at me to get flat on the floor like I was Al Capone or something. (Remember, I weigh 140 pounds in sopping wet clothes right now.)

They handcuffed me, and while they were at it, they handcuffed my son, too. Once I was handcuffed, the deputy screamed at me to stand up, which was sort of difficult to do with my hands cuffed behind me. My legs aren't very strong right now. So he screamed some more. You'd have thought I was Jason Bourne.

It was a pretty wild scene. The officer was yelling, and we also have a single mother with brain cancer living with us. She was there, and she was screaming, "Stop! Don't taze him! He's got leukemia; you could kill him!"

We also happened to have a young lady staying with us for one night who'd been kicked out her house because of conflicts between her parents. If she thought she had problems at her house, we really gave her something to look at!

The assault weapon ... No! Not the knife! The bowl!
I don't think the spoon was in it, either.
The bowl's plastic, thin, and weighs about three ounces maximum.

Both I and the deputy had calmed down by the time we got to the jail. He told me that since I was being "cool" about things now, he'd do whatever he could to make the consequences as small as possible when I go to court and that I might be able to get the charges dismissed.

Added by edit: Actually, the both of us had calmed down before we ever walked out the door of my house. I asked if I could put shoes on before we left, and they initially said no. But I was immediately apologetic once I realized I'd splashed the officer, so there had been no resistance or anything from me. It took a few seconds, then they let someone go get shoes for me. They even told her to get flip flops for me because I could keep them in the cell.

I thought I had made it clear in this blog that I don't object to my arrest, but apparently I didn't, so I'm doing that now. I deserved to be arrested. Although things were unnecessarily loud and crazy, and I made the joke about "as though I were Jason Bourne" in the text above, they had every right to arrest me after I lost my temper. 

It's my son's arrest, which I consider unreasonable seizure and a violation of the fourth amendment, that I object to because a simple phone call or even carrying out the warrant during the daytime at any time over the six week period would have prevented the arrest.

We'll see; all things in the Lord's hand. (It would have been nice if I'd acted like I believed that last night!)

The single mom I mentioned called all my friends while I was being arrested (for assaulting a police officer! Me!), and so two of them showed up with my box of pills, some Clorox wipes, and hospital masks.

They wouldn't let me have the wipes. ("You're in JAIL," they said.) I had grabbed a mask as soon as I saw them, before I went to my cell, so I did have that. They told me they would let me take my pills in the morning. They even gave me my own cell just because of my suppressed immune system.

The cell was filthy! There was an apple and a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel sitting out on the sink. There was no soap. There was trash on the floor, including three empty toilet paper rolls. I figured that meant the cell hadn't been cleaned in the time it took male inmates to use up three rolls of toilet paper (and most of the roll that was left, which was kept in a hole in the cinder block wall). There was also about 25 large wads of toilet paper that had been thrown against the ceiling wet, then dried there.

But they did give me an inch-thick mat and a wool blanket—hopefully both of which had been cleaned, but I hate to count on it— to sleep on the cement floor with. No pillow.

The toilet paper was dangerously low even for one bowel movement, so I prayed that I wouldn't have a multiple-trip-to-the-bathroom night, which are not that uncommon for me during this recovery. Not only that, but there was no soap in the cell, and the sink was so filthy I'm pretty sure I would have been unwilling to use it anyway.

A deputy who obviously was concerned about me because of the leukemia treatment had told me that my cell adjoined the call center, so if I knocked on the window they could help me if I needed something. I did, and someone else came who was the one who told me I couldn't have wipes and simply didn't answer when I asked for a roll of toilet paper.

When I woke up in the morning, I asked the lady who brought my breakfast and the man who took the tray after if I could have a roll of toilet paper. They both said yes, but they didn't bring me one.

Finally, about 8:30 this morning, I was released on my own recognizance without bail, which is what I was told would happen by a lady last night because of my "major medical condition." Once I got in the lobby, I found the public bathroom had just been cleaned. It still had the "wet floor" sign up. I had my wipes, too, so I cleaned again before I used it.

And they had toilet paper, too! (Though not my helpful, soft, anti-hemorrhoidal wipes.)

So that's how I went from father, businessman, entrepreneur, church leader, and Christian teacher to violent criminal.

I still think, however, that showing up six weeks after my son didn't show up to jail—because he wasn't required to—with an arrest warrant after 11 p.m. at night, knowing that he was available with a simple phone call during business hours, is immoral, uncalled for, and the actions of a police state, not a free republic. I'm going to give it another day to calm down, and then I'm going to the city paper and the county paper with the story to see if they'll print it.

I wanted to sue the county last night, but I don't think that's turning the other cheek. I don't mind telling the story, though, so that maybe someone will do something about such ridiculous behavior as what happened last night.


  1. My boss discovered me reading this, so you may have quite a bit of publicity actually. That's one of many obscene stories about our police department. Unreal.....

  2. Thank you for your honesty in the way you wrote this.

    I think one way that we often overlook how we can live as Christians is by holding our "public servants" accountable to treat those they serve with dignity and care.

    It's a good thing... and a story written with that sort of humility can go a long way to start good discussion and promote a healthy community.

  3. Thank you for your courage to share the story. Something like that happening, alot of people close their eyes to. Thank you for standing and God Bless you and yours.

  4. Man, I can't believe this happened to you. I'm sorry. I'm also sorry that I can't say I'm surprised (about the justice department in this county), though that still doesn't make it right. Please keep us posted about any developments.

    I have had mercy shown to me on one occasion by a sheriff, for which I'll remain forever grateful. But I highly doubt that that man was present in your situations.

  5. I'm so sorry you all had to experience this. What's that expression: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"? Before I read the entire post, I was going to teasingly call you a Rabble-Rouser. I still might. : ) Thanks for letting everyone see, again, that you are still "just a man". Blessings

  6. Hi brother. Well, I still cant get over the fact that I have an older brother here. Guess I am sincerely and eternally grateful that you survived the leukemia. This whole police ordeal sucks right. But I love you bro. And I love my nephew. More than most know. But I would rather have my big brother sitting in jail, sharing his ministry, sharing his wisdom, sharing his love, and getting tased once a week,than in a place where I could not ever again sit with him, and laugh with him, and lean on him thru trials yet to be endured. Do what you do Paul. And do it with a glow of gratitude. And I just want you to know the real gratitude I carry every day Paul. For the grace of God is you for me brother.

  7. Unreal!! That sounds like a bad dream! Going to the paper sounds like a good idea, someone in that department needs to be embarrassed for such behaviour and for goodness sake, they need to clean their cells! You gotta miss Ricky Rottin....

  8. I agree about Ricky, Becky.

    Hi James! Thanks for the kind words! Made me want to cry.


    The Rabble Rouser ...

    Well, actually the doctors at Vanderbilt just called me troublemaker ... all of them did.

  9. Hi Shammah, Great story, if you really want to fight it successfully and go after them for your son and yourself let me know. Actually your son's sentence was light. I got 3 years probation, 240 hours of community service and 36 weeks of domestic violence classes for sending flowers to my ex which is a non-crime anyway you look at it! Calvin