This is part four in my ongoing Friday feature to regale the story of how I came to live here and why I decided to stay. If you've just joined us, I've posted three links to the previous three parts below if you'd like to catch up. I have been asked if this is a true story or if there've been any embellishments, and I'd like to make it very clear that every part of this story is in fact true with the exception of some of the names.
On my way to work, I had picked up a ridiculously large can of energy drink and had it in a paper bag along with some yogurt and my lunch. Now, this paper bag was pinned under my chest along with a freshly exploded yogurt container. I suppose I should be grateful that something broke my fall when the two officers hurled me to the ground, but a big oil can of caffeine and a carton of yogurt don't really do the trick as comfortably as you might think. Along with that aluminum can in my sternum, they had tackled me at such a perfect angle that my left shoulder jammed into the handicapped parking sign.
My first instinct was that I was being robbed, because these assholes did nothing to identify themselves in any way as officers of the law. So just before the larger of the two got a chance to squat down and put his knee in the middle of my back, I tried to whip around to at least see who it was that tackled me. "Stop resisting!!" the smaller of the two about 8 feet away was drawing a weapon and I couldn't tell if it was a taser or an actual firearm, so I froze mid-roll in the larger guy pinned me down and fastened the cuffs behind my back. "We got him!" the smaller officer barked into his hand-held radio, "it's all clear, let's move in!"
A few seconds later, no less than eight vehicles came from around the building and they looked like a vanity parade for local, state, and federal law enforcement. There were the stereotypical black Suburban SUVs of the feds, a mobile crime lab that looked like a stunted travel trailer for the state agents, and a sprinkling of local Lake County police cruisers. I could not believe what I was seeing, my mouth was agape, I seriously and literally thought that I was dreaming. But the pain in my shoulder and my chest along with the 350 pound goateed man in Ray-Bans kneeling on my back signaled that this was no dream. I had to say something, and my mind raced for some way I could get to the bottom of what was going on. I hadn't done anything illegal after all, I was just on my way to work....
"Is there a problem, Officer?"
The big guy (we will just call him "Bluto" from here on out) finally got off my back and grabbed me by my triceps and pulled me to my feet. "What's in the bag, sir?"the smaller of the two gestured at the crumpled paper bag with the antenna of his radio. The showcase of law enforcement vehicles was beginning to discharge it's black fatigue wearing passengers, some in ski masks. "Well that was my energy drink and my lunch, I really...." Bluto kicked the paper bag like a soccer ball across the parking lot, sending all of its contents scattering and smashing on the pavement. "Ooo-kay..." I managed to stammer out just before I was yanked like a rag doll by my arm and thrown against the hood of a Lake County police cruiser.
"Where is the key, asshole!?" the smaller agent (we'll call him Dangle, because the guy resembled Lt. Dangle from Reno 911 almost to a tee) shrieked in my right ear as Bluto began emptying my pockets and putting the contents on the hood. "Well if I have it, there's a damn good chance Honkey Kong here will find it huh?!" I knew I shouldn't of been so flippant with him, but I was in a lot of pain and I knew that I had done nothing wrong and these guys ruined what was supposed to be a great morning for me. After spending a little too much time for comfort in my front pants pocket, Bluto fished out the two keys for the front door locks. The 20 or so other officers and agents were crowded around the front door at this time, all perched and poised as though the other side of the door was Normandy beach on D-Day.
Dangle grabbed the keys and tossed them to a black fatigued ATF agent with a helmet and an assault rifle. The agent then opened the door, and everyone piled in. I was still back at the police cruiser with Bluto who leaned in close to my ear and whispered "What the fuck did you just call me? Honkey Kong? S'matter, you don't like southern boys? Cuz they gonna love you were you're going." I was over it. "I haven't done anything, and I have no idea what's going on here, but YOU need to calm down. This is obviously a big mistake, and you owe me an energy drink..." I shouldn't have said that.
"Get this smartass out of my face before I do something stupid" Bluto lifted me up by my upper arm again and flung me to a local County Sheriff who didn't catch me inasmuch is he just stepped to one side and chuckled as I hit the ground with my hands behind my back. "Bring that guy in here, we're gonna need some help making sense of this." A portly white-haired man in a sharp gray and white suit and then gestured for the officers to bring me into the building. They were ransacking the place. There were boxes of computer parts spilled everywhere and agents and officers were emptying every single container they could find in a manner that suggested they were looking for something critical.
A fairly large Sheriff's Deputy walked me to the back office that was Gary's where the man in the sharp suit was sitting along with a striking woman in an equally sharp pantsuit. I was sat down in a chair, and told not to do anything "funny" or face dire consequences. The two sharp dressed agents in front of me were fairly high-ranking officials in the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The female agent took out a small digital voice recorder and placed it on Gary's desk. "Do you mind if we ask you a few questions, Mr. Pike?" I had no idea who "Mr. Pike" was and I responded accordingly. "My name is Aaron Gipson, and I have been working here for about a month and a half as a systems engineer." the two agents looked at each other a bit puzzled, and then turned to me, and it was the older man's turn to speak. "You are not Rodrick Pike? Are you familiar with Rodrick Pike?" I shook my head and looked at the man right in his eyes and said, "you have access to my boss' files, look for yourself. There is a signed W-4 along with photocopies of my ID in my employee records."
After a few minutes of confirming this, the cuffs were taken off of my wrist and my treatment at the hands of these people suddenly became a lot better too. Bluto even came up with a cup of water from the water cooler and handed it to me with a sincere "here you go, Bubba..." I looked up at him and told him that my energy drink would've been a lot better and that he was still a dick. The adrenaline of shock had worn off, and I was starting to feel the extent of my injuries from the initial tackle and Bluto's insistence on using me as a human dodgeball. I really just wanted this whole thing to just end. But it didn't.
As it turns out "Rodrick Pike" was a former employee of Gary's who was fired just a few weeks before I came on the job. From what I could gather, he was also an incredibly loathsome individual. An anonymous tip from yet another former employee of Gary's to the ATF claimed that Roderick and Gary were running both a prostitution and the gun running operation out of the computer store. The ATF planning this raid for quite a few months, and it just so happened to be my dumb luck that they decided to make this raid on the very first day I was to open the store. The good news here though was that there is absolutely no truth to the claims. There were no guns, and there certainly were no prostitutes. This was the act of a disgruntled employee, coupled with the incompetence of law enforcement bureaucracy, fused together to create a perfect storm of bullshit that just so happened to splatter all over me.
The realization that the officers and agents had been given a red herring did not sit well with them, and it only served to make them more desperate. From listening to the back-and-forth radio chatter, I can tell that there were agents at Gary's house as well, and they had no idea that he was going be gone on a cruise. All of the participating agencies there found no evidence of anything, which you would think would make them at least take a pause in the pillaging. But it didn't, because in their minds it was worse to be wrong about being wrong than to just be wrong in the first place. The friendly tone from before had began to dissipate as they realized that they might just have to justify a huge taxpayer expense on what amounted to be a snipe hunt.
The agents began to go through my car as well, rummaging through everything in the glove box and the back seat. They eventually found an old temporary tag from my dealership which had long since expired and threw it in front of me as though it were photographic evidence of my participation in the St. Valentine's Day massacre. On the front of the temporary tag I had scrawled "Fuck Yeah!!" in permanent marker to commemorate my first new car. And apparently this was illegal even though I did not have the tag displayed on the outside of my car. Gotta love Florida... And further, they informed me that my license had been suspended. I had absolutely no knowledge of this, and questioned the validity of the accusation quite harshly. But as it turned out, because I didn't renew my license on my 33rd birthday, it was suspended according to the state. They used both of these twisted legal loopholes as leverage against me as they begin to question me about everything from guns to Thai hookers.
*Insert two hours of ridiculous questions followed by me saying "I don't know" here.*
When it became obvious that I couldn't help them find their WMDs, the older sharp dressed ATF agent made a disgusted sound and ordered the Sheriff to take me to jail on the charges of illegal tag alteration and driving unknowingly on a suspended license. I had never been to jail before. Sure I had some 12-hour run-ins when I was young, insane, and stupid that were expunged from my record. But I had never been to an actual jail before, incarcerated. The prospect of that, on what should've been one of the most triumphant days of my life ignited an anger in me that I had never felt before. I was no criminal, and in fact I'd played by society's rules so stringently ever since the birth of my son Joshua that the younger, wilder me would've blown me off as a complete tool. Yet here I was, being put in the back seat of a police car as my place of business was being emptied out, box by box, by people in uniforms who knew damn well they were there for no reason. I was only going to jail because they had to find something with which to scare me enough to reveal some smoking gun (almost literally) about Gary's business that I knew nothing about. God bless the USA!
"Do you know why I became a police officer?" the sheriff's deputy asked as we pulled out of the strip mall parking lot. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it was your C minus average in high school", I responded dryly. "Yeah that's really funny, well you won't be laughing..." I interrupted "...where I'm going, I know... spare me". I was too absorbed by the surreality of my situation to want to have a conversation with this jackass. I had to think. What the hell just happened here? What if Gary WAS involved in some heavy shit? It would explain why the fucker was so weird, and what if he knew that he was about to be raided for something, maybe not guns and hookers, and left me there to take the fall? Were they going to give me any kind of first aid for my shoulder? Can we stop by a Wendy's?
Well I was taken into the Lake County detention facility and booked for the BS charges, and then put in a holding cell with about 10 other men. When it was my turn for the mug shot, I decided that I wanted it to reflect the insanity of the overall situation....
|Photo Courtesy of Florida Arrests.Org|
Yes that's me, taken on that day. If you click the link, it'll take you to a page that shows the date as well as the charges. And no, that's not a hickey, it's one of the many black and blue marks I got from the jackholes who I paid to protect and serve me. If you want, go ahead and leave a comment there. I still need to figure out who I have to sue to get this off the Internet....