Saturday, April 28, 2007

An Incident in a Parking Lot

I’m away at work in Louisiana as I write this, doing my offshore helicopter pilot thing. Last night, my wife Rhonda called at the usual time. There was something in her voice that sent up an alert flag.

She told me about that “something.” That morning, she’d dropped Dylan off at his first grade classroom, chatted with a couple of parents, and walked back toward the car. Dylan attends a charter elementary school that shares buildings and a campus with a charter high school, and it’s built atop a broad, rounded hill. The back parking lot sits behind the campus below a small bluff, with a stairway leading down from the campus to the parking lot.

As she reached the top of the stairs, she heard a commotion below. Several people were standing in the lot, looking at a nearby BMW. In the BMW, Rhonda saw a man swinging his fists. Several people were standing nearby, including three grown men and a female teacher. They weren’t moving; they were simply staring at the BMW with mouths agape.

Then Rhonda got a better view of what was going on inside. A well-dressed man was atop his prone high school aged son, pummeling him with closed fists. Again. And again. And again.

None of the bystanders moved. Rhonda screamed out, “HEY!!!” and went flying down the stairs to the parking lot. She ran to the car. She couldn’t get close to the open door because as the man punched his son, his feet kicked out, and the door of the BMW slammed into the car parked next to it.

“STOP IT!! STOP IT NOW!!” Rhonda yelled out. “HEY, STOP THAT NOW!!” The man finally quit punching his son. He backed out of the car and stood up. “He’s my son,” he said with a sneer. “I’ll do what I want.”

“You’re committing a crime!” Rhonda replied. The man spat back, “Bullshit! He’s my son, and I’ll do what I want.” Rhonda locked eyes with the man. “I’ve worked in law enforcement, and I’M TELLING YOU THAT YOU’RE COMMITTING A CRIME!”

The boy, meanwhile, had escaped from the car. Rhonda went to him and put her arms around him. He was shaking. Rhonda would learn that he was fourteen years old.

The boy’s father drove away. Rhonda noted his license plate. The boy cried and trembled as Rhonda held him. He kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Rhonda looked in his eyes. “Listen to me. No matter what you did or said, you did not deserve what your father did to you. He was wrong. He’s the one who needs to feel sorry.” The boy stopped crying, but continued to shake. His lip was split open, and a tooth was nearly knocked out.

Rhonda got the boy up the stairs and across the campus to the office. When the school officials learned of what happened, they spoke of contacting Child Protective Services. “That’s not enough,” Rhonda said. She picked up the phone and called the police department. Armed with a license plate number and the man’s name, she told an officer that she wanted to proceed with a citizen’s arrest.

I haven’t yet spoken with Rhonda today. I had a flight early this morning, and now I’m wondering if she’s at the police department headquarters.

Rhonda gathered, from the man’s car and his clothing, that he ranks among the privileged set. And, the sad fact is that justice is very often more a commodity than a right: come from a place of privilege, and you stand a good chance of literally getting away with murder. But, those coming from the poor, undereducated, and chronically unemployed set tend to find that the judicial system seems primed to slam-dunk them into jail.

So, maybe the man will get away with viciously assaulting his own son. He’ll look for the best lawyer money can buy, and that will greatly lessen the chance that he’ll spend even one night in jail.

And, perhaps the high-minded view would allow that the man really needs therapy more than jail time. After all, it almost seems obvious that the guy is disturbed, right? How can you assume otherwise?

Well, I say bullshit on that. The guy hurt a child. The guy hurt his own child. I want him to pay for what he did, and if that’s not high-minded enough for some, too freakin’ bad.

So, I have one message for that well-dressed dirtbag: I hope you regret what you did yesterday for the rest of your life, and I hope the judicial system installs said regret, in spades, on your sorry ass.

I also have a message for my better half: You go, girl.


Bob Devlin said...

Go Rhonda.

That is so sad. I would never want my kids to fear me. My boys are in the same age range, and while they do make me angry sometimes I could never get that angry where I could physically hurt them. I would have reacted the same way as your wife, and I hope they do press charges against this guy.

Bob Barbanes said...

Quite a story! But you know you're going to have to give us an update, Hal. Any idea what the kid could possibly have said/done to incur the wrath of dad?

Redlefty said...

Rhonda kicks ass.

La Gringa said...

I would definitely like to hear "the rest of the story." Your wife is a brave woman. That could have been a really dangerous situation for her, which I'm sure you thought about while she was telling you about it on the phone.

I'm curious about what provoked him, too, but no matter what it was, that was assault, pure and simple.