DO YOU KNOW HOW FAST YOU WERE GOING?
By Jeffrey Kass
“Freeze boy!” the officer shouted as he drew his 9 mm handgun and pointed it right at the kid’s head.
The white plain clothed police officer dressed in blue jeans and a black polo raced his unmarked navy blue Dodge Charger to a screeching halt right behind the Chevy Camaro rental car I had just parallel parked along the west side of South Boyle Avenue, off Manchester Road. I was in St. Louis for work and was headed to eat at one of my favorite local dinner spots, Sanctuaria. Their version of “Fish n’Chips” is a corn cake breaded Mahi Mahi with jicama fries. But my growling stomach was no longer on my mind.
A second plain clothed cop dressed in beige khaki pants, a blue polo shirt and Kevin Durant Nike tennis shoes, emerged from the Charger.
“Turn around, boy!” he said in a stern voice. He patted down and searched the 19 or 20-year-old black kid. His groin. His legs. Arms. Everywhere.
I stayed in my car, partially out of fear, partially to make sure nothing awful went down.
By this time, I had cracked the window on the passenger’s side of my rental car, the side closest to the sidewalk where the two cops and young man were standing. In the subtlest way I could, I aimed my iPhone video camera at the passenger side mirror of my car. The side mirror was pointed directly at the cops and kid. I wasn’t looking to make the 6:00 news, but I thought it would be a good idea to document what was taking place, even though I wasn’t quite sure what that was yet.
“I’m going to handcuff you while we ask you a few questions, okay?” The officer didn’t wait for a response. Instead, he took a pair of handcuffs stuffed in some pouch on his waist and closed them on the boy’s hands. They weren’t the metal silver looking kind of handcuffs you see in older movies. They were clear plastic and tied tight like those nylon cable ties I use on my flagpole in my front yard to make sure my flag doesn’t blow away.
“Ouch, that hurts!” the boy complained.
“That’s what happens when you cross us. Did you have a gun?” the officer asked in an increasingly harsh voice.
“No,” the kid responded, almost in a fuck-you tone.
“We saw you throw a gun into the bushes when you spotted us watching you.”
“Man, I didn’t even know ya’ll were watchin’ me and don’t even own a gun.” The boy had started raising his voice at this point.
The second officer left to search the shrubs, grass and areas at least for an entire block south down Boyle. Scoured the place.
“I can’t find anything, Jo Jo,” he shouted to his partner in a disappointed tone. On his return, obviously coming up empty, he returned to take over the questioning. “You have two choices. We can sit here all day with you in handcuffs until you come clean about what the hell you’re up to, or you can cooperate and make this easy. Sounds like an easy decision if ya ask me.”
“Why you trippin’? Just on my way to the convenience store to buy some snacks and joe’s.” The kid had stopped his sarcasm and his tone turned to frightened.
The kid was about 5’10”, thin, had a medium dark brown complexion with a few tiny black moles on the side of his face and a short disheveled afro. Probably hadn’t shaved in two to three days. Striking green eyes. He wore baggy jeans–you know the kind that droop almost down to the back of the knees. The kind I always thought looked ridiculous on people. He had a white t-shirt and a dark bomber type jacket. Slightly worn white Adidas tennis shoes with three black stripes on each side. The shoes were the newest looking article of clothing on his body.
It was a bit of a cold day for St. Louis for late May. Fifty-five degrees and almost no humidity. I may have never moved away from St. Louis had most days been that pleasant. Usually by May it was so hot and humid a person would sweat profusely just walking a block. “Looks like I brought you our beautiful Colorado weather,” I told my friend Aaron hours earlier. Amazing how a couple years in Colorado changed my level of tolerance from the brutal humidity of the Midwest. If you can call St. Louis and its southern mentality, the Midwest.
“Let me see your driver’s license, boy!”
I didn’t understand why only now they were interested in who this kid was.
“Man, I told you, I was just walking to the convenience store to buy some cookies and smokes.”
The kid reached into his pocket. “Here,” and handed the cop his ID.
The first officer took the license back to his car. Within a few minutes, he came back with a look of increased disappointment on his face. “You lucky bastard. No record.” He paused for a few seconds. “Yet. But you’re gonna get a record if you don’t come clean about what you’re up to.”
The boy didn’t answer. Just gave the officers a “what’s the use in repeating myself” kind of look.
Another several minutes went by with the two cops chatting about their next move.
“Unlock him, Lance,” his partner Jo Jo said in a resigned voice.
Officer Lance fumbled through his coat jacket and pouch. “I can’t find the damn keys. Shit!”
The other officer went back to the car, and after a few more minutes, finally returned with a set of keys. “I found ‘em!” They mumbled something else to the boy as he left headed in the same direction he was before his detention. “We’ll be watching you,” was the cop’s departing words to the kid.
The officers also left the scene, but I stayed in the car, my heart beating nervously. While I probably was never in any danger myself, I’m pretty sure the cops wouldn’t have been too happy if they knew I had recorded the whole thing. It took a few more minutes but my breathing and heartbeat finally slowed, as my nerves quickly turned to anger. I called my friend Ryan in Denver. Then Joe in Atlanta. Reggie in New York. I always had more black friends than the typical white guy, and felt like I had to share what had transpired. “You’re not going to believe what I just witnessed,” I started out each call. Of course, none of my friends responded with surprise, but still, I felt like I had to share.
Just as I was wrapping up my last call and preparing to finally go to dinner, the black kid started walking past my car, heading back towards direction from which he originally came. Only this time he had a cigarette in his hand and he was carrying a plastic bag. “N&M Mart” it said on the side.
I decided to approach him.
“Hey, kid, may I ask you what happened twenty minutes ago? Are you okay?”
“Man, same ole shit, different day. Fourth time this damn month they stopped me,” he said in a forfeited tone.
“Why were they questioning you?” I curiously asked, genuinely wanting to get to the bottom of things. I only was able to make out part of the interaction while it was happening.
“They said they saw me throw a gun into the bushes. Total bullshit. I told ‘em I don’t even own a damn gun. My brother used to own one, but he’s in jail now and I didn’t want to end up like that. Ty don’t even get to see his baby. The whole thing is fucked up. They arrested him walking after some neighbors called the police, saying they saw some black kid walking around. That shit coulda been me.”
As I was driving back after dinner, still in deep thought from what had transpired earlier, I got pulled over by the cops for speeding down Skinker Boulevard. I’ve been known to have a heavy foot. The red Camaro I rented probably hadn’t helped my cause.
“Do you know how fast you were going,” the officer asked me after I rolled down my window.
“I was just flowing with traffic,” I annoyingly said to the officer. I already was running late to meet my friend Aaron and his wife for a drink and the thought of spending twenty minutes parked on the side of the road was starting to bother me.
“Registration, license and insurance, please.”
“It’s a rental car, but here’s my license and insurance card.” I unlatched my seat belt and reached into my front pocket to grab the license and insurance card from my wallet as the officer stood outside the window patiently waiting. Then I handed them to the cop. “Here you go. I’m just visiting St. Louis and really didn’t know I was speeding, officer.”
“Stay in your car. I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he responded.
As promised, he returned with my license and insurance. “Do me a favor, slow down. I’m just going to give you warning this time. Enjoy your stay in St. Louis.”
“Thank you, officer. I’ll be more careful.” And then I drove off.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Kass is a writer and lawyer in the U.S., in Denver, Colorado. He has published over 100 political and professional articles over the past 20 years on the Middle East, race, intellectual property law and issues facing entrepreneurs. In 2016, he shifted his writing focus to the memoir and fiction genres. He just finished his first book, Sheldon & Irene – A Traumedy, which is currently under consideration for representation by an agent. Professionally, Jeffrey was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top 50 trailblazing Intellectual Property trial lawyers in 2016. Small Business Monthly also named him one of the top 10 lawyers for entrepreneurs. He also was named a SuperLawyer, an award given to less than 5% of lawyers. Jeffrey focuses his practice on trademark, patent and copyright law and disputes, as well as technology law, business litigation, and business planning matters. He is general counsel to over 40 startup and emerging companies. Most importantly, Jeffrey is the father of three children, with whom he enjoys a myriad of activities.