On September 11, 2001, an 18-year-old volunteer paramedic named Richard Pearlman was at 1 Police Plaza when he heard about the Towers. He'd been running an errand for the Queens lawyer he clerked for, but at that moment, his training kicked in, and he rushed toward Ground Zero.
A Newsweek photo taken at approximately 9:50 a.m. that morning shows Pearlman "helping load a severely injured woman into an ambulance," according to Boy's Life. It's the last photo his mother, Dorie, would ever see of him. Six months later, in March, workers discovered Pearlman's body in the rubble.
Earlier this year, Paul Marcel, another volunteer medic with Pearlman's unit — the Forest Hills Ambulance Corps — wanted to honor Pearlman's sacrifice on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. So Marcel helped organize the "Run for Richie."
Marcel wanted to buy and donate a decommissioned police motorcycle to the corps. On eBay, he found a guy in Houston named J.W. Caldwell selling a 2008 Harley-Davidson. Marcel told the Houston Press that Caldwell described himself as a "chief." Ultimately, Marcel paid $7,800 for the bike. But when he got it, he discovered that it was, in Marcel's words "a shitbox."
Marcel explained in an email:
"I had no problems purchasing a motorcycle that was department owned because they are well kept and road worthy. This junk bike had worn brake linings, loose suspension, a terrible wobble upon braking, bad starter & blown motor. What a joke, As I presented myself as an officer of a volunteer agency numerous times, on emails text messages etc this person has taken advantage of me, our agency and the victims of a ride set forth to remember 9/11 in NYC."
The Harley's engine made a loud knocking noise, Marcel claims, and a mechanic estimated it would need $2,700 worth of repairs. Marcel claims that the bike also arrived late, and that Caldwell gave an odd excuse for not sending it sooner: His unit had been deployed to Louisiana to help with the floods.
Marcel said he told Caldwell about the problem, but that Caldwell said the Harley ran fine when it left Houston — maybe something went wrong in the shipping.
But now, Marcel believes his volunteer unit was taken advantage of by a so-called police "chief," and he says he's owed an explanation.
To clarify, Caldwell is not a police chief; he formerly served with the County Precinct 6 Constable's Office, and left that position in 2014, around the time that then-Constable Victor Trevino was indicted on charges of financial misconduct. Caldwell would later sue Trevino and Harris County, alleging that Trevino forced him to resign. (Caldwell lost at trial and an appeal is pending.)
Caldwell is a captain in the Waller County Precinct 3 Constable's Office, according to Constable Herschel Smith. (We asked Caldwell directly if he was with Precinct 3, but he declined to say.)
Caldwell declined to address Marcel's claims other than to say, "The equipment left here in fine condition....What happened after it left here, I can't answer for."
But Caldwell told us he didn't tell Marcel that he was a chief — he says he told Marcel that he was a captain.
Caldwell has 100 percent positive feedback on eBay, based on 45 happy customers in the past 12 months.