I’ll Never Understand
I just found out yesterday that a friend who used to live next door to me committed suicide by cop. After hearing about what had been going on in his life, I can almost see why he would make such a desperate decision. He had an outstanding warrant for theft, and he knew it; so when the police officer saw him crossing the parking lot and told him to stop, he must have known that the time was now. You see, he had been waiting for this opportunity. It is why he had purchased a toy gun. It is why he painted over the orange tip that identifies it as a toy gun. It is why he painted it gun-stock silver; so that it would look every bit as threatening as he would need it to in order to get the policeman to end his misery. Once, and for all.
Jim (not his real name) lived next door to me in El Paso for 2 years in the early 90′s. He lived with two other roommates; I had one. They had a swimming pool. We had 3 acres of land and a landlord who enjoyed mowing our lawn. No kidding. The rent for my roommate and I was $425 a month. Not each; total. Our houses were conveniently located 2 blocks from our favorite watering hole; Aceitunas Beer Garden. I was (along with my friend Paul) the first paying customer in that bar the day they opened. I was also the first customer ever asked to leave that bar. Same night; but that’s another post. When ‘Tunas would close, the party would invariably move to our place, or Jim’s place. We’d all play cards, try and blow my speakers to Pearl Jam, play front yard soccer barefoot and break every toe on both feet at the same time (yep, me again) and generally have a great time. 15 years ago today, July 4th, 1993 our 2 houses hosted a 4th of July party to end all 4th of July parties. It was epic; The Who could have written a song about it. It was that good. As time went on, we each moved on and moved away from our little party planet. Everyone, that is, except for Jim. He could never let go of the euphoria that alcohol gave him.
I think everyone knows, or has known, someone who could be classified as a “mean drunk”. Jim was a mean drunk. Even back when we were neighbors, if he went a little too far with the booze, it would be a bad night for everyone. NukeMom knew him back then too. He used to flirt with her, or any girl, for that matter, in a drunken stupor that no girl would find attractive. He would hold on to her arm and not let her walk away. On more than one occasion, it almost led to fights. NukeMom and I weren’t an item yet, but we would be soon after. Jim just always wanted and needed someone to listen to him. As he drank, the need got greater; both for attention and alcohol. We all out grew it. He, apparently, never did. He was fighting something much more sinister, known only to himself.
I hadn’t seen, talked to, or thought about Jim for a long time. Then yesterday, my little sister sent me a link from the local newspaper. I read it in disbelief. Jim’s life had gone horribly wrong after we had lost touch. In the summer of 2004 he was arrested for Aggravated Sexual Assault Of a Child. It was a little girl. She was 9. I almost threw up. He served prison time and was on probation when the shooting occurred. After he got out of prison, none of his old friends would have anything to do with him. He allegedly got into the drug scene and continued his downward spiral. I looked him up on the sex offender web site after hearing about all of this and saw a picture of a truly broken man. The look on his face was one of total despair. I wanted to pity him, but I couldn’t. Not after what he had done.
I’ll never understand what can possess someone to violate a child. To me, there is no greater sin. The reason I am having such a hard time with this, is because we already lived through this nightmare a year ago. My neighbor across the street was arrested in July for the same offense. We didn’t know. Mr. and Mrs. AP didn’t know. The Doc and his family didn’t know. None of us knew. He never had a chance to commit anything so heinous in our neighborhood, of that we are sure, but the shock remains. Someone so close. Someone we knew. Someone we didn’t know at all. 3 days before his final court appearance before trial; he hung himself in his jail cell. He left a wife, an 18 month old son and a bewildered community. You just never know. I think of his poor wife; an immigrant who had found happiness in her new, adopted country, and wonder how she makes it through each day. I mostly think of their little boy. I picture his father pulling him around their driveway in his Radio Flyer wagon, his laughter filling the neighborhood. Unaware. Unaware of the demons that lived in his father. I wonder who will tell him. I wonder when they will tell him. I wonder if they should tell him.
Jim turned to face the officer and blurted out a string of obscenities, knowing it would raise the level of tension. The officer, clearly getting agitated, told Jim to back off and calm down. Jim continued his ranting and announced to the officer “I have a gun!” He then reached into his back waistband and pulled out the toy handgun that he knew would be the means to his end. The officer retreated, unholstered his pistol and fired at Jim until he had no bullets left. Reports say it was at least 4 shots. One witness says she heard as many as 10. As Jim lie on the ground dying, the officer had a chance to get a good look at the gun that had been pointed at him. It was then that he realized that it was a toy gun. I can only imagine the turmoil and anguish he and his family must be enduring right now. An unsuspecting executioner in another man’s desperate fight to quiet the demons. Once, and for all.