Hiking While Brown in Rural Alachua County
Intro: Guns Drawn and Pointed
Three police officers... or maybe they were sheriff’s deputies
with guns drawn and pointed
pulled up on the dirt road like bounty hunters from a Mustang commercial.
100 yards away they started running.
Then they started shouting:
I'm already on my knees
I lean over and put my chin to the dirt, leaving my hands outstretched.
I wasn't moving. I was calm and compliant, laying down like a pig waiting to get lassoed.
I was well behaved.
The cop dug his knee into my back, pinned my hands behind me, and cuffed me tight.
Phase 1 success. On to Phase 2: the Search Process
Grabbing my pockets, kicking my iPhone pro, losing my credit card, they wanted to find anything they can on my body.
They hauled me 100 dirt-road yards into the back of the car and started reading me my rights.
Oh shit, they aren't fucking around.
Act I: A Sober Hedonistic Nirvana
I had just finished facetiming my COO, Larissa. She runs the daily operations of my company, Smile. I was standing on an abandoned balcony overlooking Newman’s lake, a beautiful nature sanctuary east of Gainesville, Florida.
Larissa and I talked about the beautiful nature of the earth. How the green swamp here reminded me of the star wars planet Endor. Hiking to the edge of the lake, I climbed across logs that laid out a dry path across the swamp. It felt like a video game challenge to keep my balance and stealthily cross this beautiful map.
I flipped the camera around to show Larissa the view.
I had been here once before at night and the sounds of nature -- bugs, bites, hisses, and groans echoed into the night like an orchestra chamber. This was an untouched gem: a beautiful vibrant ecosystem where the animals had won and the wooden houses didn't stand a chance. The balcony I stood on was in the closing rounds of a losing fight. Two of the wooden columns had folded onto themselves so the balcony slanted. Every leaf, trash, or weight on the balcony had slid off into the ground. Nature reclaims what is hers.
I was on the pinnacle of a hedonistic nirvana; conquering a challenging swamp hike, water up to my knees, and taking in this beautiful view from a vantage point, I beamed. The natural serotonin running across my brain waves released a pure pleasure.
I told Larissa I had to go. My smokeshow girlfriend Angelina was waiting for me at a winery a mile away. Half an hour ago we got into a fight. I wanted to hike to this lake and she refused. I offered to flip a coin or play rock paper scissors, but she was indignant. In the moment I didn’t want to be held down or miss an experience, so I went out on my own.
I had my fun exploring and now was returning back to my queen. We were spending the day at a beautiful winery after taking an airplane flight class to start our morning. It was a dream date.
Angelina was waiting for me back in the car, pissed off that she was left alone and scared because she had no phone service. I wanted to fix my mistake. I told Larissa it was time for me to head back to Angelina. I turned towards a dirt road that had come into vision only once I finally reached the lake after hiking through thick underbrush and swamp, and began walking to my freedom.
ACT II: Racial Profiling in Bumpkinville
Two big blue lives matter cops, the guys they send to beat the shit out of underserved communities and who spit on protestors at a riot, along with 1 female police officer are chatting with each other and making jokes as I gingerly adjust my handcuffs.
I'm about to undo thousands of dollars in chiropractic work with their manhandling.
A car clicker is punched, a whole second later the door unlocks. The police man puts his hand on the door and flings it open
"Do ya speak English?" the respected civil servant asks.
Bumpkin, do some racial profiling and realize that I'm obviously here in Gainesveille for the university with my $1000 phone, fancy credit card, and stylish Red Bulls FC jersey. Who the fuck does Alachua County Sheriff think they have in their hands. The criminal justice system is fucked, but as a civilian they are acting like I'm a thug. and I've given them no hard time. As a member of the educated suburban class I thought I’d be entitled to decent treatment.
"Yes, I speak English." I answer with no accent.
Bumpkin ass cop has a big American flag eagle tattoo on his right forearm. The dude is a cop's cop.
"Alright imma read you something," the bumpkin said as he unfolded a small piece of paper.
You mean my Miranda rights you fucking schmuck. Rich people can buy themselves out of the justice system. but I can't buy myself out of this cops racist ancestral attitude.
"You have the right to..." he begins.
Everyone knows attorney is the only right that matters.
"With that said do you have anything you want to say to me?" the bumpkin finished.
I should have asked for an attorney right from the beginning, but instead I say no.
My voice doesn't whimper or quiet. it's a casual no. I'm not being firm, just apathetic. Angelina says I've got an apathy switch I can turn on when I want.
With my rights read I'm officially under arrest. They must think I did something fucking huge. they manhandled me and arrested me within 2 minutes. No questions. No what are you doing here sir? Nothing but a gun and cuffs.
ACT III: Stunned and Scared
I'm stunned. I sit in the car for 10 minutes starting straight. I can see out at the officers shooting the shit outside, but they can't see into the car because of the deep window tint. I’m not searching the room for clues or trying to gather every visual I can to plan an escape. This is a hurry up and wait situation where I have no power so I start planning.
Big fat blue lives matter policeman opens up the front door, puts my confiscated iPhone down, and starts fumbling with my wallet trying to open the simple hatch. I tell him that my wallet can be used as a phone stand -- a little nerdy, but i'm trying to make him see me as less of a dirtbag and more of a human; but he's stupid and can't figure out how to open the wallet, plus he's to arrogant to ask me for directions.
Then he leans over and presses the record button on his dash camera. Did he not record this fucking arrest? Or did he record everything and decided to turn off the camera right after the arrest?
Don't think too hard. He didn't record anything because they wanted to beat the shit out of me.
I'm not going to say anything if they are hostile. and I don't want to say much if they are kind. I want a lawyer asap. Is Angelina going to find me a lawyer, or can I call Jeremy's dad who is a criminal defense lawyer 6 hours away in Broward? Maybe he can make a referral. Did I do something wrong? Like a child waiting for a principal I fixate on every mistake I might have made over the last hour. I was carrying a metal rod that came from the broken balcony.
I picked the rod off the floor and used it as a walking stick and to measure the water levels on the hike. Maybe they'll call that theft with a weapon: that seems like a stretch. I'll get a lawyer. I'll pay a few thousand dollars, and maybe I'll even have an excuse to visit Gainesville again.
I'll have a mug shot though. And i don't want that photo to come up when my name is searched...ever. So I'll have to file some papers to archive the files and that will take time. Not a good look to be arrested.
But I'll have street cred. And be a little more ghetto. I know how to hustle. I've been arrested. I can play both sides. Be a rich college guy and fuck around in these streets
This is a whole ass fucking project looming over my life. I’m already so busy and don't want to talk this shit on.
Paranoia says there is a small chance my life is never the same after this arrest.
Angelina is also pretty capable so if she can get a lawyer, maybe her rich brother can wire her money immediately and I'll pay her back, we can handle this situation. But i don't even have her phone number memorized. I only know the phone number of my family by heart, so like fuck me.
ACT IV: No Apologies.
There is a car clicker heard
A lock flicks up.
The door flies open.
Big boss bumpkin hovers over me
"So you want to tell me what's going on." the officer says.
"I'm very surprised. I was at a winery with my girlfriend and went for a hike. I'm very surprised by everything since. I'd like a lawyer." I answer.
I don't want to tell much but I share the parts that seem especially harmless. Girlfriend, winery, walk, surprised.
"What's your girlfriend's name?" comes dripping out of a tobacco stained mouth. Fuck the police.
"Angelina Castro, " I answer.
Oh fuck me I brought her into this. Now they have another person to question. More data to fuck me with. And maybe Angelina will say something stupid. Something about drugs. Whatever she does she complicates the situation.
"Oh cause i saw she was calling you when we arrested you." the bumpkin said.
I don't know what I responded with, but it was the start of a change in tone. Mr. All lives matter is still a hardo asshole, but now treating me with less than total humiliation.
The door slams shut as I ask for a lawyer again. A few minutes later I hear some commotion outside and see Angelina, eyes read and tears streaming down her face, speaking with the cop.
I exhale my stresses, because I'm not lost in the woods, and this girl is smart enough to handle her shit and hopefully can quickly make my bail. But she's crying and the machismo officer who is arresting her boyfriend starts talking to her nicely, like he is hitting on her. I want to scream or wave from the window, but she can't see me. At first I thought she was ignoring me and my heart dropped. I wanted to smile at her and for her to lift my spirits up. Assure her that I was okay. I worried about my loved ones and now I felt a breath of relief. But also I fucking hated this cop for talking to my girlfriend. Whoa, did I feel possessive. Angelina exits the view and I start craning my neck looking around for the first time. There is a bumpkin old hillbilly with a long thin blonde beard who is telling his story of seeing someone. He keeps looking towards me and asking if he can identify me but the police don't let him
I figure this is the man who called the cops. Why couldn't you have just said something to me? I would have turned around and said “hey”. Why are you of all people, of all the trespassing and crazy shit I've done, the mother fucker who called the cops. You see me walking and you call the cops.
I am reminded of old racism where despite money and Thurgood Marshall, poor whites still have control and in the middle of nowhere Alachua county I could be in serious danger. They can easily manufacture some shit.
The cop comes to the door again.
He’s more friendly now and tells me they are checking with the homeowner to see if I burglarized something.
I'm surprised. He says a man shouted at me to stop and I took off running. I peeled back and said no, then asked for a lawyer.
I can't even run. Literally, I haven't run in 2 years because I shattered my ankle. The doctors said I may never walk again, so I’m grateful just to be walking. I'm not running from shit. I heard something. Looked around afterwards, Didn't see anything or anyone and kept moving. Maybe the noise came from the street that was within 400 meters.
The cop opens the door again.
“Here is the situation. You're getting trespassing and you're not going to jail.” he declares.
“Is that a good deal?” I confirm.
He explained trespassing as a legal charge that can only be prosecuted on the second offense. Everyone gets a warning. And I remember getting a trespassing charge at George Washington University when I was a junior at Georgetown. I knew it meant nothing. While I sat cuffed in the cop car, the homeowner, a graying lady, told me that I wasn't welcome. She said it nicely. But I was owed an apology from this lady who had me cuffed for an hour and led the police to draw their weapons on me. I didn't need a scolding. My life was put in jeopardy when police drew their weapons and cuffed me.
I told her I won't be coming back.
The cop has to twist my arms to undo the handcuffs because of how tight and uncomfortable they had been sitting.
I walked over to Angelina’s driver side. She screamed at me to get in the car. All I wanted was a hug and some loving comfort but we drove home in silence.