Thursday, April 24, 2008

So, you think YOU'VE had a bad day???

If you're having a bad day...come on over to It's All About De and read this post...bookmark it to read again when you think you're having a tough time.

It started with a hysterical phone call yesterday morning from my mother as I was getting ready for work. "My house is on fire!!!" she screamed.
I was in my bumble bee and ladybug pajama pants and white wife beater t-shirt so I just threw a jacket on, slipped on my dog walking shoes and jumped in the car. I ran every red light between our homes and prayed I wouldn't drive up to find her house engulfed in flames.
There were 2 police cars, an ambulance and one fire truck in front of her house. One fire truck...ok...that's a good sign. No billowing smoke or flames coming from her house....another good sign.
I ran up to my mother to find out that a wood and rattan chair had caught on fire and totally went up in flames. It became out of control so quickly and the house filled up with thick black smoke that she just pulled the chair away from the wall, got the animals out of the house and called 911.
Luckily, a fire truck was just around the corner so fire fighters were there in a minute and they got the chair out of the house and doused the flames quickly. But the was a mess.
Thick black smoke turned into thick black soot and it covered EVERYTHING in every part of the house.
Nothing was spared.

My sisters, some of mom's friends and I thought we'd get to work and clean her house but quickly realized that the job was just too much for us and we'd need professionals so Mom started putting calls into her insurance company.

In the meantime there was nothing much we could do so everyone but me left. Mom couldn't stay in the house but she resembled Al Jolson in black face and needed a shower badly.
She got cleaned up and we decided to go get her something to eat. Earlier, I had gone home to change out of my pajamas into something I didn't mind ruining during the clean up which happened to be a pair of cut-off sweat pants (that I didn't cut evenly) and a t-shirt.
We were planning on going by my house so I could change, then out to pick up insurance forms, get lunch...etc...
Things didn't turn out the way we had planned, though.

We walked out of her front door to her car in the driveway. I came around the driver's side and she the passenger's side.
Before I opened the door, I looked up to see a black truck slowing down in front of the house, then pull across the top of the driveway, perpendicular to the driveway and my mother's car.
I wondered if this person had something to do with the insurance company so I took a few steps to the back of the car and waited as the man got out. He was a short african-american guy wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt and a ball cap.
He said, "Hey, how do I get to the freeway?"
I kind of laughed because he was a LONG way from the freeway. Do you mean Hwy X?"
"Yeah," he said.
So I started to give him directions. I only got as far as the end of the street when I stopped, realizing that he wasn't listening or looking at me. He was looking around very suspiciously.
My mom had come to stand next to me by this point so I put my arm in front of her and pushed her behind me.
"Mom, go inside the house." I said.
The guy says, "Why? What's the problem?"
I said, "No problem. We just need to go."
He then shook his head and said "Y'all aren't going anywhere" as he started to walk around me towards either my mother or to try to get in between us and the house.
My blood instantly went cold. My adrenaline suddenly spiked; I could hear a roaring in my ears and I suddenly had tunnel vision. All I could see was that guy.
He didn't show a weapon but I noticed his pockets were bulging so I didn't know what he had in there and I didn't want to find out.
My mind started racing, thinking, "How are we going to get out of this situation?"
I could have run...hell...I could have taken him. He was at least 6 inches shorter than me but my mother....
She's nearly 70 and she can't run. I needed to keep her safe so I put myself in between the guy and my mother. Every time he moved, I moved, keeping a distance between us and pushing my mother back toward the house. I kept saying "NO! NO!" because I remember thinking there is NO way he's getting to us or getting into the house. I was confident (maybe stupidly so) that he wasn't getting inside that house. I was also fumbling for the keys in my hand to push the panic button on the remote. I wanted to create as much noise as possible.
In the back of my mind I knew that no one was around. My mother lives in a quiet neighborhood and everyone was at work at 1:30 in the afternoon.
So, when I heard my mother screaming "HELP! HELP!" I wondered why, no one would hear her. But I looked to my left and her new next door neighbor was just exiting his car. He just stood and looked at us for a moment so I started yelling, "HELP US! HELP US!" and I set off the panic alarm to the car.
The neighbor started running across the yard toward the bad guy. That gave me an opportunity to create a lot of distance between me and him so I went for my cell phone to call 911.
I heard the neighbor yell "STOP! POLICE!"
I am thinking he's telling ME to call the police and I think, "Dude! That's what I'm doing...duh!"
The bad guy starts backing off saying "I ain't doing nothing!" but suddenly he jumps in the truck and takes off.
The neighbor is screaming the whole time telling him to stop and step away from the vehicle.
I'm yelling for my mother to get inside while I'm trying to remember the number for 911.
As the bad guy drives off, the neighbor asks, "What happened?" I simply said, "He was trying to rob or attack us!" I barely looked at him because I was trying to get the license plate of the fleeing truck.
Neighbor guy jumped in his car and took off after the bad guy.
I actually got through to 911 and gave them my story and was told an officer would be by soon.

When I hung up, my mother had sat down on the porch and said "Did you see that? The neighbor had a gun. He pulled it out of his holster. I think he's a cop!"
I realized then why he said "Police!" He was identifying himself, not giving me orders!

It wasn't long until a police officer showed up and asked for a description of the guy and his truck. When I was finished he said they had apprehended a guy that fits the description and wanted us to come to the scene to identify him.
By this time two of my sisters had driven back to my mother's house so we all jumped into a car and followed the cop to a VERY remote part of town. We drove down a bumpy road, behind a junkyard to find several police cars and that same black truck.
They kept us a good distance from the bad guy and got him out of the police car and we gave a positive identification.

The story is that this pillar of society started in Houston with a car jacking for that truck, then slowly meandered down south where he robbed people along the way. He was just taking a leisurely drive through the neighborhoods looking for easy targets.
He didn't expect to approach two women next door to an off duty police officer. Hell, we didn't know she lived next door to an off duty police officer!
The bad guy was captured after a high speed pursuit through town and since he wasn't from here, he got himself stuck on an unfamiliar street, crashed into a van and tried to take off on foot. He didn't get far.
He was found with over 100 stolen items on his person, mostly jewelry (that's what created the bulges I noticed).
He is being charged with felony evading, multiple moving violations, resisting arrest, drug possession, the multiple thefts and where my mother and I are concerned he's being charged with felony unlawful restraint.

After about 2 hours at the police station giving our statements separately, the detective asked me if there was anything else I wanted them to know about the incident. If I were sitting in front of a jury, what would I want them to know?
I had to think about it for a moment and then I said, "When I set off the panic alarm, he laughed at me as if to indicate that he wasn't intimidated at all. I knew then that we were in big trouble. He was amazingly calm about the whole thing, as if he did this everyday."
The detective typed this up and said "That's good stuff."

Yes, it was a bad day, but it could have been worse. The fire wasn't devastating, the bad guy didn't have a weapon and there was a police officer just a few feet away. We were VERY lucky.
But my sisters lovingly reminded me that I was very lucky that I wasn't arrested myself; apparently my uneven cut off sweats and old t-shirt were definitely a violation and I should be thankful the fashion police were off duty!
Why is it nothing bad ever happens when you're dressed up? I'm always in my pajamas, sweats or just rolling out of bed when an emergency occurs; teeth not brushed, hair askew, face unwashed - devoid of any makeup.
I might start wearing an evening gown 24/7!

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