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The job was fantastic. Everything you wanted and more. Excitement, fulfillment, serving mankind, and action that produces an adrenaline rush like no other. But, along with following your dreams sometimes comes a price. And sometimes that price is quite steep.

Yes, becoming a cop was everything you’d always wanted out of life. And, you’d lucked out when you married the perfect partner, had two beautiful children, purchased a nice home with a not-so-bad mortgage and two fairly new vehicles—a mini-van for hauling the kids to ballgames, scouting events, and family vacations, and a sporty little convertible for weekend fun.

Adding to the perfect lifestyle was an always-by-your-side speckled dog named Jake who the kids forced you to rescue from a local shelter. Work was going great, too, and you’d finally reached the five-year, unofficial, no-longer-a-rookie status. Along with that milestone came a permanent dayshift assignment.

No more graveyards. No more of the Sandman tugging at your eyelids while patrolling dark side streets and alleys. No more trying to sleep with bright sunlight burning its way into your bedroom.

Yes! More awake time at home with the family. Normal meals and meal times. No more Denny’s Lumberjack Slams with a side of hash browns at 4 a.m., or the cold, not-quite-finshed-because-of-the-shooting, three piece, once-extra crispy meals from the Colonel.

Things were definitely looking good.

Better still, you felt good. Well-rested. You’d finally watched your favorite TV show at its actual air time, not as a recording after everyone else has seen and talked about it for days.

You felt so good, actually, that you’d volunteered for extra-duty. Running a little radar on your off time would be an easy assignment, and the extra money would come in handy during the holidays. Besides, little Sally Sue needed braces and Jimmie Joe had already been dropping hints about attending a Boy Scout summer camp.

A few hours each week. How bad could it be?

Your supervisor liked what she saw. You’re a hard-worker. A real go-getter. She wrote a glowing letter recommending you for the Emergency Response Team (ERT). You interviewed and before you knew it you’re on the team. Training was only twice a week, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, your days off. Well, there’s the bi-monthly night training exercises, and the team competitions.

You didn’t get called out all that often—two, three times a month at the most? The last time, though, you were gone for two days, but that really wan’t too bad. Well, maybe you could’ve cut back on the radar assignment. But, the money was nice. After the holidays. Yes, that’s it. You’d promised to cut back after the holidays.

The hostage situation was a tense one. Took 14 hours before the sniper finally popped one in the guy’s T-Zone. That piece of crap never had a chance to think about pulling the trigger before his lights went out. At least his victim came out okay. She’d probably be scarred for life, but she’d live. Might spend a few days with a shrink, but she’d live.

Man, that sniper was good, huh? Blew that guy’s brains all over the wall. Sat him down in a hurry, too. Now that’s what a bloodstain pattern is supposed to look like. TV directors should see this stuff.

To celebrate a job well done the team went to a bar for a few drinks and to unwind. You made it home at 3 a.m., drunk. Your wife and kids were fast asleep. There’s a piece of cake on the counter. The chocolate frosting had dried and hardened just a bit around the edges.

Damn, you forgot your kid’s birthday party.

You couldn”t sleep. Brains and blood. That’s all you saw when you closed your eyes.

Brains and blood.

You knew she was awake and could smell the cheap whiskey, cigarette smoke, and drugstore perfume.

Hadn’t smoked in ten years. When had you started, again?

Whose perfume?

Didn’t matter.

Brains and blood … that’s what was on your mind.

You’d stared at the ceiling, knowing that in two hours the clock would ring. Would the Jack odor be gone by then?

Brains and blood, that’s what kept your eyes open and your mind spinning.

The buzzer sounded and you showered and dressed. Skipped breakfast because your gut felt sour and no matter how many times you brushed your teeth, you felt as if your breath reeked of dirty ashtrays and stale booze.

A domestic he-said-she-said, a lost kid, and an overnight B&E at a midtown mom and pop grocery store. Your head pounded. Pearl-size beads of sweat ran down your back, following your spine until they dipped below your waistband. You dreaded the overtime radar detail. Two more months. Only two more months and the holidays would be over.

A drug raid at 10 p.m. A good bust, too. Two kilos and some stolen guns. What’s a couple of beers to unwind? Sure, you’d go.

It was 3 a.m., again, a few hours after switching from beer to hard liquor, when you’d fumbled with your keys, trying to find the lock on the front door. This, after parking your car askew in the driveway with the driver’s side tire on the lawn and leaving the car door wide open, an act you’d very much regret when trying to start the car the next day.

Passed out on the couch. Late for work, again. Forty-minutes late, actually, due to a head-splitting hangover and a dead car battery. A written warning.

A week later you’re late again, but this time the sergeant smelled the alcohol on your breath. Suspended. Ten days.

Your wife went shopping with her friends. You stayed home with the kids. She came home late. Really late. The stores closed hours ago. No shopping bags and you could’ve sworn she’d been wearing panty hose when she left.

Back at work. Another shooting. This time you fired a few rounds at the guy. He ran. You chased. He turned and fired, so you popped off a couple of rounds in return. He dropped, bleeding and twitching on the pavement.

The kid died. He’d turned thirteen just four days before you killed him.

Suspended pending an investigation.

The department shrink prescribed a couple of meds to help you sleep.

The media hounded you relentlessly. Published your name and address along with a photo of your home.

Another paper published your department and academy records, including the one where your  scores on the firing range were darn near perfect. You’d meant to kill him, they’d said. Your skills were that good. Sure, you knew better, but …

Brains and blood.

Pills helped, some.

And Jack Daniels.

She was out shopping, again. This time she wore her “going out” makeup and the tight skirt and top she once wore on the night of an anniversary. The one she called her “you can’t resist this” outfit. She was right, too, because those legs went on for days.

More Jack Daniels and a pill or two or three. Lost count.

She came home drunk at 3 a.m., smelling of Jack Daniels, cigarette smoke, and cheap aftershave.

You’re awake, staring at the ceiling, knowing the clock is set to go off in three hours. She’s snoring gently. You smelled the Jack with each tiny exhale. The aftershave burned your nostrils.

Two more pills. No, make it four.

Then a trip to the garage, in your pajamas. Barefoot.

The concrete felt cool on the soles of your feet.

An owl hooted outside, somewhere far in the distance.

A cricket chirped from behind the old, rusty furnace.

Boxes filled with old clothing meant for Goodwill sat against the block wall where they’d been for a couple of years.

Moonlight wormed its way through a narrow window next to the ceiling. It painted a milky line that reached from the center of the floor to a tall stool next to a dusty table saw.

You slid the stool next to the workbench where you’d mended countless toys, appliances, and fixed the heels on her favorite shoes. You stood still for moment, taking in the surroundings—your tools, the kids’ old bikes, a couple of rickety sawhorses your father used when he was young, the water softener equipment, and a trunk filled with years of memories.

Then you sat on the wooden stool top, resting the balls of your feet on the bottom rung, and glanced down at the off-duty weapon in your hand, your favorite pistol. Never missed a single target with it.

You couldn’t remember taking out of the dresser drawer, though.

Didn’t matter now.

It would be over in a second.

You opened your mouth and placed the barrel inside, tasting bitter gun oil.

The metal was cool against your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Familiar. Comforting in a peculiar sort of way.

A lone tear trickled down your cheek.

Brains and blood …


In 2016, 108 police officers died as a result of suicide. That’s more than the total officers killed by gunfire and traffic accidents combined in the same year.

  • One officer completed suicide every 81 hours.
  • For every one police suicide, almost 1,000 officers continue to work while suffering the painful symptoms of PTSD.

*Source – Officer.com 


The blue line flag above was painted by author J.D. Allen and presented to me as a gift at the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy. For those of you who don’t know, JD was one of the organizers of the first Writers’ Police Academy held in North Carolina. Thank you, JD. You’re a wonderful friend.

You can learn more about JD Allen and her books by visiting her web page at JDAllenbooks.com

 

 

Mr. X is a former business professional who committed a crime that landed him in federal prison. He’s out now and has agreed to share the story of his arrest with the readers of The Graveyard Shift. You might find this tale a bit interesting.

GYS: Thanks for taking the time to share what must have been a difficult time for you and your family. I’ll dive right in. What were the circumstances that ultimately led to your arrest?

X: It’s embarrassing to have to tell it. I’ll start by saying I was ill at the time. A mental problem, I guess you’d call it. My doctor gave me all sorts of drugs that were supposed to help me, but didn’t. They just screwed up my wiring—my thought processes. Anyway, to this day I still say I would have never done anything wrong had it not been for the assortment of antidepressants and pain pills. Still, I did what I did and I accept the responsibility for it. I wish I could change it, but I can’t.

GYS: What was the crime that ultimately led to your arrest?

X: I bought some cocaine to sell. I didn’t use the stuff, I just needed money. You see, with my mind so scrambled I couldn’t hold down a job and my wife was struggling to make ends meet. The medicine and depression simply wouldn’t let me think properly. Either I’d get fired or I’d quit for some crazy, unjustified reason. All I had on my mind was the feeling those little pills offered, especially the pain pills. At the time, I think I’d have married a bottle of Hydrocodone. I loved and craved it that much. Still do, actually, and I haven’t touched the stuff in many years. But I think about it nearly every day.

GYS: How long did your life of crime last?

X: I didn’t make a very good criminal. My entire crime spree lasted about a week. I bought the cocaine to sell, but chickened out. I couldn’t sell it. But someone who was involved in the transaction was already in trouble with the police and told them about me to help themselves out of their own jam.

GYS: Tell us about the arrest.

X: As it turns out, the person who told on me was an informant for a federal task force so, needless to say, I was surprised when my house was raided by a team of FBI agents along with state and local police. There must have been fifteen or twenty officers involved in the raid of my home. All for a little over $100 worth of cocaine. Although, I’m sure if I’d sold it it would have netted more. The prosecutor leading this investigation was a man named James Comey. You may have heard of him.

GYS: Seriously, that’s all you had?

X: Yes, sir. $120 worth, or so. A heaping tablespoon full, maybe.

GYS: What were your charges?

X: Possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with the intent to distribute, and obstruction of justice. The obstruction charge was later dropped. I think the feds automatically add that one to make you confess.

GYS: Why do you say that about the obstruction charge?

X: They threatened to arrest everyone in my family—my wife, kids, and mother—if I didn’t confess. And if I didn’t admit to the crime they’d let the obstruction charge stand, and that’s a minimum of a ten-year sentence. I had no choice. None whatsoever. Plus, they applied this pressure prior to my talking to an attorney, which I understand is perfectly legal. But let me again stress that I was indeed guilty. I’ve never denied it.

GYS: So what happened next?

X: Gosh, it’s all a blur. Let’s see. I was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car, driven to a remote jail hours away from my home, fingerprinted, strip searched, de-loused, and placed in a jail cell. The cell was a single cell (only one inmate) with a plastic-covered mattress atop a steel plate hanging from the wall.

A former occupant had smeared feces on the block wall in several places. The toilet didn’t flush, and the door—a solid steel door—had a family of roaches living inside the hinges and other tiny crevices. They came out to explore at various times throughout the day and night. By the way, it was difficult to distinguish between night and day because there was no window and the overhead light remained on 24/7. It was a real shock to me. I’d never even had a traffic ticket.

Oh, my family had no idea where I was, or what had happened. They were away when the raid took place—at work and in school.

This, shortly after my arrest, was when I learned that I was a drug addict. Withdrawal symptoms set in not long after I was in the jail cell. The next several days were pure hell, for many reasons. I begged for someone to help with the sickness, but my pleas went unanswered.

My only contact with humans was through a small slot in the middle of a steel door. As I said, I’d begged for help but that door wasn’t opened again for three days. I did see a couple of hands twice a day when they shoved a food tray through the slot. But the person wasn’t allowed to talk to me.

A federal agent finally came to get me on the third day. He took me to a courthouse for a bond hearing. My family was there but I wasn’t allowed to speak to them. I was denied bond. Why not, I don’t know. This was a first offense, and a $100 dollar offense on top of that. So I was hauled back to the jail cell.

On the ride back to the jail, shackled like Charles Manson—handcuffs, waist and leg chains—I realized just how lovely trees, flowers, and the sky really are, even though I was seeing them through a steel screen. I also realized how important my family was. I’d taken a lot of things for granted in my miserable life.

So I wound up back at the jail, which I learned also doubled as a holding facility for federal prisoners. I was there for two more weeks until my wife scraped together enough money—$25,000 (she borrowed against the house)—to retain an attorney to represent me. Still, he obtained a lien on the house in case his fee went above the $25,000. Federal court is really expensive.

The lawyer managed to get another bond hearing and I was released on my own PR, but I wasn’t allowed to go home with my family. I had to stay with a relative in another city because the prosecutor said I was a threat to my community. For $100 worth of drugs that I never took or sold!

Anyway, I remained there until I went to court where I was found guilty (a pre-arranged plea agreement) and sentenced to serve nearly three years in federal prison.

In the beginning, an FBI agent told me Mr. Comey wanted them to question me to see if knew of public corruption. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow he was under the impression I knew something of importance, but I didn’t. Nothing. When I think back, I think he may have a little embarrassed that he’d initiated this huge raid that involved dozens of law enforcement officials, several prosecutors, and lots and lots of money, all for that tiny amount of cocaine (illegal, I know).

So he pushed hard. I also believe that’s why I was denied bond and was held at that way out of the way jail in another part of the state, and that I wasn’t allowed to return home.

The arrest occurred on a Friday, which meant they were guaranteed that I’d remain locked away at least until Monday when the courts were open. Slick move. All to prevent me from telling the story. Prosecutor Comey kept me in seclusion until they could begin the threats of “forever in prison and locking up my family.” It was no longer about the cocaine. This was to save face.

But this is my educated guess and a story for another day.

There’s been lots of discussion about Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest, with many defending the golf legend by saying it was ONLY prescription medication, not illegal drugs, and he’d realized he was sleepy because of those meds so he merely pulled off the roadway to rest. He was being a responsible driver, many say. Others have expressed a desire to see him behind bars, wanting no special treatment for a celebrity.

One of the medications Woods consumed was Vicodin, one of the most highly abused prescription drugs available. Woods has been taking pain meds for quite a while, so he’s definitely familiar with their effects.

Driving while under the influence of prescribed prescription medication is equally as dangerous and deadly as a drug abuser driving while under the influence of the same but illegally obtained medication.

Woods did not pull his car entirely off the road, as some suggested. Instead, it was sort of half in the roadway and half on the shoulder. The headlights were on and the car was running. Woods was behind the wheel, either asleep or passed out. He was in control of the vehicle and he was definitely under the influence of something. A classic DUI stop.

Sure, this is an unfortunate situation for Woods. However, it’s a situation that could have been far more unfortunate if the extremely intoxicated/impaired man seen in the officer’s dash cam video (Tiger Woods) had hit another car head-on, killing the occupants.

As someone who’s seen many, many people’s lives ruined by abuse of and addiction to prescription drugs, prescribed or not, I’d say Mr. Woods exhibits the signs of someone who is likely dependent on pain medication.

This (my opinion, which I rarely offer but feel so strongly about this topic that I am doing so this time) is another example where I feel that jail is not the solution to the problem. Woods, like the thousands of others who abuse pain medications, needs help, and he needs it right away. Otherwise, well, there’s Prince, Michael Jackson, Winehouse, Elvis, Jimi, Janis, and those whose names aren’t familiar to us. But they’re just as … well, you know.

 

The above video clearly shows that Woods was under the influence. The questions defense attorneys will use to try and clear their client of wrongdoing will likely focus on the officers, trying to poke holes in the state’s case. One potential hole is that the officer directing the field sobriety test allowed Woods to remove his shoes prior to performing the heel-to-toe walk on the white line. Why could this be a problem?

Well, I don’t know about you, but plenty of people would have a hard time walking on pavement without shoes, even when totally sober. Stepping on rocks could cause a person, Woods included, to appear to stagger when lifting feet away from the pain-inducing pebbles. Yes, I’ve heard this defense before when stopping a shoeless drunk driver. This, among other goofy defenses, is the reason I stopped having drivers perform any of these tests (walking, turning, holding a foot off the ground, etc.).

Also, the officer’s instructions weren’t very clear. I had trouble following them and I knew where he was headed.

However, in spite of these possible but small troubles, I see this as a slam dunk for the prosecution. I also see rehab in Woods’ future as part of a plea deal to avoid a serious consequences. I hope he gets the help he so desperately needs before something more serious happens to him or someone else.

By the way, in addition to the above noted field sobriety test the officer asked Woods to perform, he was also given the Romberg Alphabet instruction—recite the entire English Alphabet from A-Z. Prior to beginning this task Woods was asked to repeat the officer’s instructions to be certain he understood the task he was asked to perform, a common and necessary instruction. His reply was,  “… not to sing the national anthem backwards.” Woods was then again asked to recite the alphabet but he began to walk off and seemed as if he was lost. He finally recited the alphabet, correctly.

Woods was given the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, which he did not successfully complete.

You can view the entire arrest video here.