So last night I am cycling home, listening to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast about the Red Army's sacking of Berlin. As I pedal up North Shepherd near the 11th Street Kroger, Carlin regaling me with tale after tale of unspeakable Red Army atrocities, a more immediate if infinitely less sweeping emergency presents itself in real life.
An HPD cruiser zips past, weaving in and out of traffic, and takes a hard left on West 11th. I hear other sirens in the area, and soon another cruiser flashes past like a hornet. You can always tell when cops are fighting a suspect. You can practically smell the adrenaline coming out of their exhaust pipes as they race to join the fray.
As I turn left on West 11th, there's the scene: a beat-up maroon Buick (or similar '80s hooptie) crumpled where it tried, and failed, to make a right turn onto 11th off Durham. In minutes, there will be 12 police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance on the scene, which closed down about half of Durham. The suspect was laid out somewhere amid all the emergency vehicles and invisible to onlookers.
I listen as Mishe Walls, the one witness who saw the whole thing, describes the events to a friend on the phone.
She was on a cigarette break from her job at the Papa John's on the corner. She says the guy was being chased by several cop cars when he crashed. The cops blocked him in when he tried to drive the mortally crippled Buick off the curb and away from the power pole he'd wrapped it around.
Walls tells her friend that the guy wouldn't get out of the car. Several police had to bash in his windows with their batons and yank him out. Still he fought, even after he had been wrestled onto the hood of a patrol car, so they started whaling on him with their batons.
And he still wouldn't go down. "He was hollering, 'I ain't goin' back to jail! No way y'all are takin' me to jail!'"
And then the police, numbering about half a dozen, Tased him. And Tased him again and again and again, according to Walls.
She seemed to view him as a knucklehead once she found out he wasn't, as she had originally thought, the boyfriend of a friend. She had called a relative of that man, who told her it couldn't have been the guy she was thinking of, "because he never leave outta Acres Homes." The woman did tell her that it might have been that man's brother, because they look alike.
A car passed and a woman shouted something out the passenger-side window about Rodney King and laughed raucously. It sounded like something to the effect that this had been nothing like that infamous beatdown, but I am not sure.
During a break in one of her phone calls, I talked to Walls, an effervescent 24-year-old black woman, and got her to repeat her story to me. Meanwhile, paramedics finally wheeled the suspect into the back of the ambulance. He was a pot-bellied, shirtless, thirtysomething black guy with a shaved head. He was strapped down to the gurney and his neck was immobilized. Soon, we could hear harsh cries of pain coming through the open doors of the ambulance, even 30 feet away near the door to the Papa John's. A cop clambered aboard to assist the paramedics.
"He ain't crunk no mo'," said Walls. "That adrenaline's goin' down. He's feelin' all those batons and those Tasers now!"
She had no idea what he'd done to initiate the chase. "Maybe he was racing to the post office to pay his taxes," I suggested, to a harsh belly-laugh from Walls.
Things were winding down, so I pedaled off the rest of the way home. Even though I was the only member of the media on the scene, I kinda thought it might make the TV news. Maybe one of their vans had come up after I'd left.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
But as all you mayhem junkies already know, that was an entirely different multiple-cop-car police chase, one that concluded a couple of hours before the Papa John's crash. This other one started clear down in Brazoria County, weaved through Houston's toniest West Side 'burbs during rush hour, and ended (much more peacefully than this one) in a Piney Point Village cul-de-sac. The guy was arrested, but he wasn't beaten or Tased and he didn't even wreck the car.
It just makes you wonder -- how many of these car chases actually occur every day?
If a high-speed multiple cop-car police chase ending in a totaled car and a Tased and clubbed suspect goes unseen by every TV station's Eye in the Sky, did it ever even happen at all?