Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Saturday, May 12, 2007

An Incident in the Western Woods: A Lesson Learned

The Orbit of Justice - An Incident in the Western Woods: A Lesson Learned

An incident with the law occurred today which was both amusing to me, somewhat troublesome, and a cause for minor concern.

My daughter became ill at church service today so she asked me to take her home. I did, and about noon I made her a salad for lunch and made one for myself as well, and we both sat down and started eating. Not long after that my Great Bernard, who was in the house began to bark like crazy. I looked outside to see my Great Dane bitch and her remaining puppies following along behind a tall boy, (or young man) it was difficult to tell from that distance, walking across our front yard near the north tree line, between our house and the road in front of our house. I thought from the size of the guy, and his slimness of build, that it might be my nephew Bear who occasionally hits golf balls into our yard from his land across the road (then he’ll come to retrieve them).

I called to the guy but he was facing away from me and he continued on into the woods, towards the road, without looking back and I assumed it was possible that he couldn’t hear my shouts over the barking of the dogs. My bitch followed him as far as the wood-line and then stopped pursuit, which it is common for her to do with my nephew as well. Since my daughter was alone in the house aside from my Great Bernard I also decided not to follow.

About 1300 my wife comes home from church and then shortly after that my younger brother bursts into the house saying that the “law is crawling all over your property.” I asked what it was about and he said they had arrested a guy fitting the description of the guy I had seen earlier near the Northwest end of my property on the old logging road.

I walked down in the woods and eventually my wife circled around by road and I had her drive all of us down to the old logging road, which is on the far Western end of the property, on the part of the property my father still owns. Sure enough there was a cop, a single patrolman and single cruiser which had pulled in behind a suspicious car that had been parked on the road in front of our house near our drive a couple of days before, but had eventually been moved. I had already taken down the tag number as it is my habit to note anything suspicious about anything anywhere I go because it might come in handy later. But the car was later moved and I had assumed it was simply a break-down that had later been towed away.

Sure enough it was the same car from days before and the cop had the suspect in the back seat of his cruiser and he fit the description of the guy walking across my yard, but it was easier to see him now, as he was much closer.

That wasn’t the amusing part though. That came as I walked up on the cop. I asked him if I could assist him, that he was on my land, and did he need help because I suspected that this guy was the same guy who had crossed my yard a few minutes before. He asked me to describe him and I did and then he said, “Do you have ID on you?” To which I said, “No, I live right up the hill here but didn’t expect I’d need any since this is my land.”

“How do I know you are who you are and that this is really your land?” A perfectly good and reasonable question and the same I would have asked in his situation. He continued, “Look, Sir, let me explain, I’m out here in the wilderness by myself, I just arrested this guy, you show up here, you have no ID and now I see other people in the car you got out of. I’m here alone.”

I didn’t answer but just turned around to face away from him, put my hands in the air and said “Search me.”

He did and did a fairly thorough job too, except for my boots. Then he said, “Does your wife have ID?” I said “yes,” and he said, “let’s go to her car.”

So we started to her car but then he noticed my boots and said, “Wait a second, let me check your boots.” And he did. Now this might shock a lot of you who know me but this is the very first time I’ve ever been body searched and frisked in the field. I’ve had my equipment searched on plenty of occasions, but never my person. But of course I’m extremely familiar with the drill, though he couldn’t have known that, and it didn’t matter anyhow. He still had a job to do.

He got my wife’s ID and checked her out and then my brother pulled up, and he checked him out too. My brother had said the law was crawling over my property but it actually turned out to be a single patrolman and a single cruiser. That was one of the reasons I had approached the scene so casually and had not thought much about the consequences, because I thought the arresting officer would have had plenty of backup, and we had approached the locale from around a corner of the logging road. But the officer was alone.

At that point, after having verified what he could the officer apologized several times and very earnestly saying, “I hope you understand that I’m not trying to be anti-social or anything but I just arrested this guy and I have a wife and kids and I don’t intend to get lynched out here in the wilderness all by myself.” I laughed and told him I understood how he felt, and although he couldn’t have known how sincere I was, I did indeed understand exactly how he felt. Many is the time I have been alone in dangerous situations with armed and potentially armed men around me and I’ve been quite uncertain of their motives, possible involvement, or desire to become involved in one affair or another, if you know what I mean. So I told him there was no need to apologize, I understood his position and didn’t realize I had made him that nervous or that I had appeared that threatening. He told me I never really acted threatening, but certainly appeared that way, especially coming up on him from behind while he was alone and off the road. Well away from back-up. I understood that too since I operate alone and don’t like getting caught bareback to a silent wind. I think what bothered him the most was how calm I was but I felt no danger, he was a cop, and I knew I’d be no trouble to him. He though wasn’t so sure of the matter from his end I reckon.
He then asked my brother and I for help to strip off the stolen plates on the vehicle and my brother said he would go fetch a socket and I told him if he needed any help where he could find me and I had my wife drive me out of the woods.

Once I got home I prepared my camera. Once the officer leaves the area, and I assume he’s waiting for a tow to take that car out of the woods, I’m going back to sweep the entire area. That guy wasn’t in my woods or on that road or living around this area for at least a couple of days without a reason. He was looking for something, or someone, waiting for something or someone, living out of his car or in some nearby abandoned structure, or somewhere nearby is a possible nest of criminal activity or perhaps a Meth lab in the woods (that is my brother’s supposition, and it seems logical enough, but not very likely given where I think he was holed up). My brother also put me onto something else which I’m gonna be investigating starting tomorrow. But I’m gonna have to go in with equipment and prepared in case the place has traps laid out. If there is a lab operating somewhere, a nest, a dive, or even if somebody is simply growing weed

The funny thing about all of this is that over the years I’ve had my run-ins with uniformed officers. But every time I do I almost always forget that they aren’t aware of who I am, or that I know exactly what they are gonna do. But for their part they don’t know that I know exactly what they are gonna do and this very often makes them extremely squirrelly, which from their point of view of course, I guess it should. For instance when I got back in the car my wife read me the riot act for the way I approached the officer and started interrogating him. It is my natural inclination whenever I see trouble to move straight towards it and start investigating. It is also my natural habit to begin immediately questioning the people around me and to just assume that any scene is my scene to investigate, that I’m the one handling the investigation. But from the point of view of the uniform, who doesn’t know what is going on or what I’m doing it must seem awful strange. This deputy didn’t know who I was, what I was doing, why I was there, or by what right I should be questioning him. Furthermore, and again this is a personal habit from years and years of doing that kinda thing, and because that is my nature and personality, my wife said that when I first approached the officer I walked straight up to him and “got all in his personal space.” To which I guess that is true, I didn’t really notice, but it would be natural for me to get as close as possible to someone to read their mannerisms and facial expressions. Which I guess made the officer very nervous.

Also, although I didn’t see this, my wife and daughter said that when I spun around for the officer to pat me down he immediately backed away from me and touched his sidearm. Now even as he was talking to me and asked me if I had any ID and I said “no,” and then he asked me, “How do I know you are who you say you are,” it immediately occurred to me that if I were him what I would do is frisk me. You can’t prove your story just on your word so just let him cover me and that’ll make him feel better. So instead of answering I just spun around and put my hands in the air. That spooked him pretty good according to my wife and daughter. My daughter later told me that she thought I was gonna get busted on the spot and my wife said, “I thought he was gonna draw down on you.” Now I didn’t think a thing about this at the time, but, in retrospect, it must have looked suspicious to him. Now me, being me, and having been in similar situations, I knew exactly what he was thinking and would do next, so to myself I just said, “Oh hell, he’s gonna frisk me, so let’s just get on with it and it’ll save us both a lot of time and trouble.” But to him it could have easily looked like, this guy has been arrested before and knows the drill all too easily. I’ve never been arrested and never even frisked before then, but I knew the drill, even what he was thinking, so just by instinct I reached for the air and spun around. But he couldn’t know I knew what he was gonna do so that must have spooked him pretty bad according to my wife and girl.

I keep telling myself I’m never gonna do that again, never let on I know stuff like that, but every time it happens, I keep thinking, this is what comes next, or ‘if I were him this is what I’d do’ and so I just do it anyway, which must seem kinda odd to the uniform. After all, as I said above, he doesn’t know that I know what he knows, and he doesn’t know why I should know what he knows, or how it is I know that.

Anyway after getting home from the store my wife and daughter fussed at me again about the way I approached the entire incident and although it made me laugh, because I hadn’t realized how nervous and unsure the officer had actually been, so concentrated was I on picking up on anything useful from the scene, after thinking about it awhile I realized they were right, and I kinda felt bad. That poor Deputy had no idea what was going on, how I knew what I knew, or why I was acting like I did, and although I have no intention of telling him, I could have played it a lot easier for him. No doubt he was honest when he told me he was afraid I’d lynch him in the wilderness (I live here and know the whole area like the back of my hand, so I don’t think of it as wilderness) and maybe indeed he did feel the need to unholster his weapon just in case and maybe he was as nervous as my wife and daughter seemed to think he was. I was so concentrated on finding out what I could that I never really read him, I was focused on reading the incident and the scene. I never thought of him as a danger and so didn’t bother reading him to see how he was squaring everything.

Whenever I’m in a situation like that it seems like things just go on automatic and I start assessing and taking over, thinking of it as my scene, what I would do, how I would handle it. Getting up in people’s faces, asking questions, verifying information, gathering intelligence. Whereas the officer there has every right to think of it as his scene, and to get nervous about some guy getting in the middle of something he really shouldn’t be that aware of unless he’s a part of it. Which I am, but they just don’t know that. So in the future I’m gonna try to be far more sensitive towards others and try to better control my instincts and habits so I don’t give them a minor heart attack in my zeal to get on top of the case or situation. I have a feeling it’s gonna be hard, cause it goes against everything in my nature, and most everything I’ve ever trained for, because I’m so used to working things alone, but really I’ve got no right to make some poor officer who just happens to get in the same circle as me sweat and start worrying that maybe he won’t make it home that night just because I’m pursuing a personal matter in my own way.

Still, that Deputy will have quite a story to tell his buddies at shift change at the sub-station. I can hear him now, “yeah, this guy comes up outta nowhere from the woods, gets right up in my face and starts asking me questions, and when I start questioning him back he spins around like a top and throws his hands straight up in the air rather than answer me. I was about to drill that SOB right then. I was not gonna get killed out in the wilderness somewhere.” He and his buddies will get a good laugh outta that one. I know I did, and I suspect some of you guys will as well.

UPDATE: It turned out from an investigation I was able to make that evening, after the police had hauled off the derelict vehicle, that the boy was a squatter.

There is an old, abandoned, small 4 room house in the woods, about a quarter of a mile from the road, parallel to but slightly to the north-east of the logging trail. The boy they arrested had obviously broken into this old house, which to my knowledge had been used for at least the past decade as a storehouse of various old goods and junk left by the last owner (whom I’m not sure is still living). The boy had then set up shop in the house apparently turning it into his squatter’s shack.

Although the house is not on my land it is not far from my land and so after the cops left I threw on some dark clothes, since I got out there in the evening, put on my Rudding Pack, got my digital camera and one of my sidearms and hiked out to where it was. After a short investigation I found the door he had tripped and explored about the place photographing everything in case it was later needed as evidence for anything. I found nothing to indicate any real crimes of any consequence had been committed, other than the B&E and the squatting.

The boy had obviously been there awhile as you can see from the pics. He had set up shop and home, had some personal effects around, etc. I’m not sure if he had brought all of the Disney paraphernalia with him or had simply stolen it from the surrounding junk left by the previous owner. He had obviously brought in the chair and sleeping gear.

How he was obtaining food I’m not really sure. I found wild onions he had been taking, he had probably been taking frogs and possibly fish from the nearby river, and there were small items like half-eaten bags of potato chips. I found out from local sources that he possibly had a girlfriend assisting him in the area. She was possibly helping him obtain small items of food or maybe he was stealing it from nearby houses and farms. I found no money or drug stashes.

The Disney and child-like theme he used for decoration kinda concerned me because the kid was far too old to have any interest in that type of stuff unless he was psychosocially retarded to some high degree or unless it was already there and he simply confiscated it because it was the only source of decoration, entertainment, or distraction he had available to him. Otherwise he shouldn’t have been so enamored of it.

I’m almost certain the motorcycle was left there by the previous owners, not brought in by the boy.

Now that I know he was squatting there I’m gonna be watching the place on occasion to see if he returns.

Pictures of what I discovered below.

© JWG, Jr. 2007


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