Police Encounters #4: What a Night
I am really compelled to write about a different encounter that occurred when I was around 22, but I will stick with the current order as previously suggested.
During Police Encounters #4 I was not married (I was engaged to my wife), and I still lived at 1858 McAllister street. During the time of this incident I was approximately 27 or 28 years of age and I worked as a therapist and substance abuse counselor for the Westside Community Mental Health, Youth Awareness Program. My three core co-workers were Ben Bautista, Yehiel Yisrael, and the famous singer Lenny Williams.
One evening after work Ben picked me up from my home and we went to the YMCA on Golden Gate Ave. to play basketball. On occasion after work we would either go to 24-Hour Fitness and lift weights or go shoot some hoops. It was a typical evening of basketball and we ended the night by going to my favorite burrito spot on Height St., just around the corner from the Boys and Girls club. All was still typical, I ordered my usual and since I was not driving, as soon as we got back in the car I commenced to eating. I began ingesting my carne asada burrito with rice, tomatoes, cheese, refried beans, a splash of red hot sauce, and a Hansen’s soda to finish it off.
Again, all was well; nice day at work, nice night on the hoop courts, and a delectable burrito to end the night. As Ben was driving me back home, we were suddenly pulled over. He and I were both shocked to have an officer behind us with flashing lights — absolutely baffled as to why. We soon learned that an illegal left turn was made at a stop sign. It was dark and long tree leaves thoroughly covered the no left turn sign.
I had no worries, it was a routine stop and we would soon be on our way. It was around 1998, so I had on some Grant Hill Fila basketball shoes, long white Fila shorts, and a black Self-Only Music hoodie. Keep in mind, despite the California perfect weather perception, San Francisco is cold and foggy most nights. On a typical night you do not walk around the city in shorts, especially after sweating on a basketball court.
The officer asked Ben to step out the car, which I still considered routine. I was enjoying my burrito and drinking my Hansen’s, waiting for Ben to get back in the car so we could bounce to the house. We were only a few blocks away. The officer then walked around to my side and asked for my name and ID. I asked him why he needed anything from me and he began to escalate, demanding that I give him my ID. I really felt I did not need to give him anything, but I did. He asked me to step outside the vehicle and I remember putting my dink down on the concrete. I guess I held my scrumptious burrito in one hand, while a fumbled for my wallet and ID in my sweatshirt pocket. It was cold, dark, and foggy as we stood on a Frisco hill, pulled over by one SFPD officer.
I gave the officer my ID, continued eating my burrito, and the next thing I knew the single white officer was approaching me. I will never forget his words as he approached to handcuff me. Clearly I was bewildered. I said to myself in disbelief , “Do I have a target on me?” The officer said, “The judge wants to see you.” What????? The judge????? What judge, it’s past 9pm and this guy says a judge wants to see me!!! I have no idea what happened to my burrito, I just recall seeing the last of my Hansen’s soda resting curbside. I think he made me toss my burrito before he handcuffed me.
The back of a police car is horrible. The car was cramped and the plastic seats pressing against my skin made chilling episode that much colder.
The officer let my friend drive away, and in handcuffs he put me in the back of his squad car and drove me to Park Station (close to a mile away). I continually asked him what this was about and he would not say much. Once we arrived at the station, he escorted me in, directed me to sit on a cold metal bench and cuffed one arm to a metal bar atop the bench. There I was in my tennis shoes, shorts, and sweatshirt, puzzled, expressionless, angry, and worried. No one said a word to me and thirty minutes later an officer came out and said “we made a mistake.” They un-cuffed me and I asked if they would be driving me home, and then I realized I could not have police drop me off in my neighborhood. I exited Park Station and walked home in the San Francisco fog. What a night.