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A Journey to the Center of the Mind, Book II

James R. Fitzgerald

(It’s August, 1980. A terrible event just happened to Fitz’s good friend and fellow Bensalem
police officer. On Fitz’s second night back at work afterwards, a build-up of anger and
frustration is released on a person we’ll call “Gort.” Did he deserve it? You be the judge.)

Bonus Chapter Twenty-A
After several great vacation days, which then unbelievably morphed into two downright
dreadful viewing and funeral days, it was back to work for real for me on Sunday night, just
about thirty-six hours after Bob Yezzi was laid to rest. I was due in with my squad for the 11P–
7A shift on August 17. It would be my first actual work shift in over a week, and the first time
officially on-duty since Bob’s death. As I put on my uniform that evening, I made sure the small
black “mourning” band was affixed properly to my badge. It would serve for the next month as
a difficult reminder of the senseless tragedy which had befallen Bob and the whole BPD
community those days and weeks before. At the same time, it would also be a visual reminder to
others with whom we would come into contact of the PD’s loss and that a police officer’s lot is
not simply harassing kids on a corner, writing traffic tickets, and processing shoplifters.
After all, they do shoot real bullets out there, as my former store detective colleague so
ignominiously reminded me as I was leaving my prior job in August of ‘76. And, as I learned
the hard way, they drive real cars headlong into police officers out there too.

Needless to say, there was an abundance of support and outward sympathy over the last
few days from many Bensalem Township residents, business owners, and the community at large
in relation to Bob’s death, including many who only recently got to know Bob from his relatively
brief but successful stint in the Crime Prevention Unit. The cards of sympathy were received by
the boxful at the police station. For that we were all grateful. I should also add here that the
officers and staff in the BPD were also thankful and appreciative of our brother and sister
officers from several neighboring Bucks County police departments, including Bristol Township,
Middletown Township, Lower Southampton Township, and the Pennsylvania State Police as
they provided personnel to patrol the streets and even staff the dispatchers’ office during the
times of Bob’s viewing and funeral. It may have taken these out-of-town officers a bit longer to
navigate their way to some locations to which they were sent on calls, as they weren’t
necessarily that familiar with the streets of Bensalem, but all worked out well for them and our
citizenry during those shifts in which the regular officers were otherwise sadly preoccupied.
Whether by coincidence or perhaps for some other reason, we were told that the calls and
even crime was down in Bensalem during the several days after Bob was killed. Hmmm…Did
even the local criminals possess some level of sympathy here? Was it a “professional courtesy”
on their parts?
Nah, probably not. But things were nonetheless eerily quiet for those first few nights
back at work.
Except for “Gort,” as it would turn out. And he paid the price for it.

As one could readily imagine, I was not in a very good mood those first few nights back
at work. I met with my fellow uniformed colleagues on more than one occasion each night

between calls, car stops, and building checks. Through our open front windows in our separate
patrol cars we commiserated over coffees or Slurpees with one another about Bob, his life, his
death, and what he or we could have done differently that night. We also discussed the ongoing
PD political crap, and all sorts of other relevant, semi-relevant, and even non-relevant issues.
We were each other’s confessors, therapists, cheerleaders, and shoulders-to-cry-on, the latter if
not literally, then figuratively, over those next few long, hot and humid night shifts. Cops who
may not even like each other that much on a personal basis, or even a political basis, tend to
mostly come together when one of their own is the victim of a crime and/or tragedy of some sort.
The next few weeks after Bob’s death were no exception, even in the ever-deepening political
quagmire that was the BPD.
Despite the internal and some external support we officers were receiving, I nonetheless
found that all the emotions I still had apparently pent up inside me were to be tested on the
second night back of this abbreviated midnight shift. It occurred when I answered a call of a
domestic assault at a house in my sector. That’s where I failed the “test,” or at least didn’t do
very well at it. I’m not necessarily proud of the results, but that’s how it goes sometimes when
Jupiter aligns with Mars which aligns with Venus, each shining their light on a drunken, womanbeating a**hole, with me then being sent into the mix.
Allow me to extrapolate….

I believe it was shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning when I received the call to
respond to a certain address in my sector. A woman had contacted dispatch and claimed that her
boyfriend had just assaulted her, was threatening to do it again, he was drunk and/or high, and he

would not leave her residence. Upon receiving this information via the police radio, I responded
there with at least one other officer, then eventually another, as my back-ups.
Upon arriving, the drunken guy, in his late 20s, at least 6’4”, well-built, longish hair,
wearing what appeared to be a freshly ripped tee-shirt over just his boxer shorts, was observed
on the open front porch of this two-story house. He was standing outside on the top of a flight of
concrete stairs with a quart bottle of beer in one hand and a clenched fist in the other. He was in
a somewhat threatening pose and leering with disdain at the officers as we arrived, although it
was noticed that he did not move his head at this point or any other parts of his body. He was
just staring straight ahead, even as we cautiously walked by him. Without initially saying
anything to him, I walked up the wide set of steps and around him to get onto the porch to talk to
the woman inside the house. I wanted to determine her physical condition as soon as possible. I
was watching the guy the whole time but I decided I’d focus directly on him after I had more
information and knew of the woman’s condition.
My eyes, or the eyes of my back-up officers now on-scene, never glanced away from the
standing-still man as we either walked around him or stood in the front of him at the bottom of
the steps. While he appeared agitated, was sweating profusely and breathing heavily, he was not
otherwise moving, talking, or in any way making any overt gestures at this time. He just stared
out toward the street, motionless.
I recall then thinking that the man was standing there initially on the porch much like
Gort, the very large, interstellar, metallic colored, and deadly robot from the 1951 movie The
Day the Earth Stood Still. Except this guy on the porch was Caucasian colored, his clothes were
in disarray or missing, he reeked of alcoholic beverage, and he was holding a half-filled quart
bottle of beer in his hand. As we all knew that the bottle itself could be a weapon, along with

his opposite-side clenched fist, we didn’t leave him out of our collective sights. We knew this
particular Gort’s “death ray,” in the form of swinging arms and kicking legs, could come into
action at any moment and be potentially injurious to all of us that night.

The woman who called the police about this guy finally started talking to me from inside
one of her downstairs windows. She didn’t want to step onto the porch as she was still afraid of
the boyfriend. I could see as I got closer and shined my flashlight on her that she too had a
ripped shirt, hair which looked like it had been half-pulled out, a black eye, and blood coming
out of one or both of her nostrils. She told me between sobs and wiping away blood collecting
on her upper lip that her now ex-boyfriend had hit her several times in the head and stomach and
she wanted him out of her house and off her property. I asked her if she needed medical
attention. She said she wasn’t sure. I then asked her if she wanted to press charges against the
guy. She said she wasn’t sure about that either as she was afraid of him and what he may do to
her afterwards.
This brief but emotional discourse between me and the battered girlfriend was no doubt
heard by Gort, who nevertheless “stood still” the whole time, just staring out into the street from
his position on the elevated porch. However, shortly thereafter, as I walked toward him, he
decided without warning to heave his beer bottle onto the street. There was no direct
provocation or reason for this, just an apparent reaction to what he was hearing from his now exgirlfriend. He apparently determined that lobbing the bottle toward the parked police cars would
serve him and his cause well.
It didn’t.

Following the trajectory of his just smashed beer bottle, the guy then slowly and
deliberately descended the stairs into the front yard and toward the sidewalk. While doing so he
stated loud enough for the woman, the three cops, and no doubt some nearby neighbors to hear,
“This is f**kin’ bullshit, man! She’s a bitch and deserved what she got! I’m outta here!”
He then slowly exited the front yard area and started walking away from the premises. I
watched him as he temporarily stopped in the middle of the street to tuck his torn tee-shirt into
his boxer shorts. I suppose he wanted to look presentable, with or without his pants, to whoever
had the pleasure of next meeting up with him. As it turned out, that would be yours truly.
All of this was, of course, unacceptable. This clearly drunken domestic abuse poster boy
had to be talked to, at the very least, and his personal information gathered before we could clear
this call. We couldn’t allow him to just walk away from the scene without ascertaining his
name, address, date of birth, run warrant checks, advise him not to come back, etc., even if the
woman wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted to press charges against him. Since the officers
that night, including me, didn’t actually witness the non-life threatening assault of this woman,
we couldn’t necessarily arrest the guy right then and there unless she agreed to file charges. If
we did arrest Gort without her “authorization,” it would have to be for other crimes.
(Laws in Pennsylvania, and in much of the U.S., would fortunately change in this regard
in several years. By the mid-1980s, police would be able to arrest a domestic abuse suspect if
the actual assault was not witnessed by the officers and even if the victim did not want to press
charges.)

Those “other crimes” happened in less than a minute’s time. That’s where I did poorly in
that “test” I earlier referenced. Well, maybe….

The now loudmouth drunk made the mistake of taking this domestic problem into the
middle of the street, about two houses away, and arguing with first one, then two, then me, the
third officer on the scene, after I finally exited the porch area and proceeded to his new location.
At this moment in time, being in the middle of a street, any street, large or small, day or night,
was the last place I wanted to be when confronting a subject involved in any potential criminal
matter, from littering to homicide.
Based on what was very fresh in my mind regarding what happened to Bob Yezzi less
than a week ago, I was not going to allow anything similar to happen to me or my fellow
officers, or even this guy. Not me, not them, not tonight. This matter would not be reconciled in
the middle of this street, especially as I now observed a car’s headlights coming toward our
small, impromptu gathering.
Seeing the lights approaching, not too fast, but coming straight at us nonetheless on this
narrow residential street, I told Gort in no uncertain terms to get over onto the sidewalk as we
needed to get information from him. I could have arrested him right there for, at a minimum,
Disorderly Conduct, Public Drunkenness, or even Littering for the earlier throwing of the bottle,
but I wanted to first get all my facts right and see just what and who I have here. That’s when
the drunk made yet another mistake in the brief time we shared in his presence. That is, he
folded his arms across his chest, spit on the ground right at my feet, and stated very loudly to me,
“I ain’t goin’ nowhere and you pussy cops can’t make me. I know my rights!”
With that somewhat slurred statement from the now newly belligerent and defiantly notgoing anywhere intoxicated loudmouth, and with the car still driving in our direction, I decided
at that time to provide him with some other rights of which he may not have been previously
familiar. These particular rights were offered to him with Bob Yezzi and this guy’s very recently

battered girlfriend very clearly in mind. No, they weren’t his Miranda Rights, but instead other
types of rights. They were right crosses and jabs, hitting him repeatedly upside his head while I
pulled on his longish hair with my left hand to get him, and us, out of the middle of the street.
This whole movement was a bit unconventional, I must admit, and not taught in the
Pennsylvania State Police Training Academy arrest protocol classes, but I so wanted us off the
center macadam and onto the sidewalk before that car got any closer. That’s when my instincts
simply took over. It actually seemed to come very natural to me right then, no doubt based on
Bob’s deadly incident one week ago to the night.
I eventually succeeded in getting us off the road, but not before Gort tried to strike me
back. He swung at me, but as it was a wide roundhouse that missed over top of me as I ducked,
it threw off his equilibrium. Down on the ground he fell, with some additional help from me
pushing him at the same time. I jumped on top of him and now it turned into a wrestling match.
Not an easy one either as this guy had some upper body strength and long and powerful arms and
legs. The other two officers were trying to grab those arms and legs as I kept hitting his midsection with continued right crosses and jabs, and now some lefts, my strong arm, to the other
side of his face. He was strong though, and because of the alcohol-based anesthesia coursing
through his veins, he was taking my best punches but still fighting hard. Until, that is, I managed
to land a left roundhouse of my own which started all the way behind my left ear and found its
home squarely on the right side of his nose.
Guess whose nostrils were bleeding now?
Gort learned that’s what happens when someone of near equal size (but not quite in this
case) and same sex fights back. Now he knows how his girlfriend may have felt just a short
while ago when he was beating on her. Well, maybe. But at this point I wasn’t counting on it.

With the guy on his back, arms and legs more-or-less neutralized, the fight taken out of
him, the blood flowing out of him (from his nose), my partners and I put the cuffs on this lout (as
always, behind the back), stood him up and escorted him into the rear of one of the police cars.
We told him to keep his head back as we didn’t want blood in the police car. He seemed to
comply at this point.

In the meantime, the girlfriend came out of the house because of all the noise she had
been hearing. She wanted to see what was happening to her former boyfriend. When she saw
him as a bloody mess in the backseat of the police car, she started crying again. She wanted to
know what took place, how this occurred, etc.
We told the woman that her boyfriend was being charged with Disorderly Conduct,
Public Drunkenness, Simple Assault, and Resisting Arrest against the police officers, and that we
would welcome additional charges if she would agree to file them against him too. She thought
about it for a minute or two, making sure she was out of sight and hearing range of the guy, then
reluctantly agreed to do so. Good for her, I thought to myself.
The still-drunken male was taken back to police HQ, processed, and eventually arraigned
before the on-call District Magistrate around 6:00A that morning. He eventually sobered up
somewhat by then and was not a problem at all at the arraignment. In fact, he even apologized
for his actions that night as the paramedics put a few bandages on his face and gave him a bag of
ice to rest on his nose with his one free hand that wasn’t hooked to the bench in the arrest
processing area. (The paramedics put medicine and bandages on each of my elbows too, as they
got banged up while rolling around with this guy on the street.)

Once a bit sobered up, Gort swore he would never go near this woman again and would
never fight with cops again. He was wrong that night and he knew it, he claimed. What he
didn’t seem to know at that point was that his nose was a bit more crooked than it was when we
first saw him standing on the porch. But he never asked for us to take him to the hospital, so we
didn’t offer. It would probably really start hurting once he got to the detention center and he
sobered up some more.

This case eventually went to court, the man pleaded guilty to Resisting Arrest. The
girlfriend, as happens all too often, dropped the charges against him. He was sentenced to timeserved (about a month), probation, and mandatory counseling. I never heard from either of them
again. He wasn’t from Bensalem and I guess she learned to pick better boyfriends in the future,
or at least ones who didn’t tend to use her as a punching bag.

Looking back at that night, I believe I may have overreacted and perhaps became a bit
more physical with Gort than I should have been. I probably could have just grabbed his arm,
with the help of my colleagues at the scene, got him out of the street and onto the sidewalk, and
handled it from there. Maybe just issuing him a Disorderly Conduct summons and an escort out
of the township would have sufficed. But with Bob’s nearby and recent death as the primary
influential factor that night, both consciously and subconsciously, I found myself releasing
almost a week’s frustration, anger, and resentment on this guy, who was also choosing the
middle of a dark street to contest a lawful arrest. It was an aberration in my 31-year law
enforcement career, of that I can assure you.

I always prided myself in being able to “talk down” many guys like this, and use “logic”
to convince them BEFORE the fists, night sticks, black jacks, and/or bullets start flying, to
cooperate, to comply. But not this time. For previously stated reasons, I wasn’t in the mood to
either talk or employ logicality that night. The timing of this incident made me act otherwise. I
suppose we’re all victims of temporal and spatial factors in decisions we make, especially those
on the fly and/or while in crisis mode. That’s what I attribute to my actions that evening. Not an
excuse, just what happened and why.

Lastly here, lest I be misunderstood, this girlfriend beating, bottle-throwing, drunken,
obstinate, loudmouth, got what he deserved in my humble estimation. But maybe, just maybe, I
could have handled it, and him, with a bit more aplomb, or at least with a few less flying fists.

Perhaps that night if I had simply uttered to Gort, Klaatu barada nikto, the whole
interaction may have turned out differently. Perhaps….
Yeah, if this guy’s spacecraft ever lands in front of me again, I’ll have to remember those
three words.