Jaundiced Justice

I’ve been waiting a long time to tell this story. No, not out of fear for myself but of what could happen to my family.

Our first son was born in Feb. 1973.  The maternity ward at St. Luke’s hospital told my wife and I that because he had yellow jaundice that he had to stay at the hospital until it cleared up. This preyed more on my wife’s nerves than mine, but then again her worries increased my own.

To relieve some tension on Sunday morning six days later, I decided to go rabbit hunting. Mainly to create some space and clear my mind.  My mind wasn’t on hunting that day, I never really was an avid hunter anyway, so after a few hours I called it quits and stopped by my parents house for a friendly chat.

My folks owned a trailer park.  Their home was also the office.  The parking spots were filled so I parked near the entrance way.  My 12 gauge was in the back seat, still loaded with number 6 bird shot, ideal for rabbit hunting.

I had walked halfway to the front door when my Dad emerged.  He seemed glad to see me and asked me if I would walked with him to one of his rentals.  He had rented a small apartment to a couple of guys that he later found out were starting a motorcycle club in Jacksonville, the Outlaws.  Once the news became known Dad informed them that they had to leave.  His trailer park was residential for families and retired couples.

Dad intended to return their $60.00 deposit but before he did, he wanted to inspect the property.  One of the two biker’s name was Herbert Witherspoon, I found out later that he was supposed to be opening up a chapter of the biker gang.  Dad told me to wait for him outside while he went in to inspect.  Soon I could hear shouting and raving going on inside.  It seems like they had rebuilt a motorcycle engine inside, on top of the brand new carpet that had just been installed before they moved in.  Dad was mad, I overheard him say that he wasn’t refunding their deposit.

The next thing I know, is I hear some commotion going on inside.  I was standing by the front door but chose to look through a plate glass window to see what was going on.  My Dad was in a tussle with these two bruisers.  In his day, my Dad could more than hold his own.  I remember as a child that he never stopped to consider the odds, but on this day he was outnumbered and outmatched.  As I watched through the window one of the guys had Dad from behind, pinning his elbows back so that he couldn’t protect himself, while the other stood in front of him, swinging a large crescent wrench, striking him in the head several times.  Blood streamed down his forehead, he sagged to his knees, I knew it was time for me to do something.  If I just ran into the apartment it would still be two against one because Dad didn’t look like he was in any shape to help.

My car was parked about two dozen steps away and I remembered that I had my shotgun in the back seat of my Chevelle.  I ran to the car, grabbed my gun and rushed back to help my Dad.  My intentions were to stop these two galoots, to make them back off.  Sure I wanted some revenge because they were messing with my Dad but I would have been satisfied to make them fight him one on one, my Dad was a tough old bird.

When I entered the room I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to make them stop.   No one was facing the door when I entered the room.  The guy still had Dad’s arms locked behind him and the fellow with the wrench turned to face me.  Blood was spurting out of the top of Dad’s skull, I could see whiteness of it in patches.  Without thinking about repercussions I stuck the barrel of the gun in the man’s crotch and I said, “You move mother fucker and I’ll blow your balls off.”   It was plain and simple.  Needless to say, that’s pretty much what happened.  My finger was on the trigger, the guy reached down for the barrel of my gun trying to twist it out of my hands.  As he did so, his body shifted so that when the gun blasted, the bird shot ripped through his groin and hip area.  Still, he had a grip on the barrel.  I believe the heat from the blast made him let go.  I still had the shotgun in my control and I told the other guy to release my Dad and raise his hands.  The pellets from the gun blast had ripped through the man’s jeans, blood was splattered on the cabinets behind him, but he was still able to partially stand.  The  bird shot didn’t catch him full center but did cause a pretty good wound considering how close I was at the time.

I  opened the barrel bolt and slammed another shell from the clip into the chamber and motioned with the end of the gun for both men to get outside of the apartment.  I didn’t intentionally fire the first shot but I had to make it seem like I meant business.  Once outside, the bigger man tied a bandana around the top of the wounded man’s leg to stop the flow of blood.  Dad  got his legs under him and followed us outside.

Across the four lane highway from us was a gas station.  The guy that owned the station had been pumping gas when he heard the gun blast.  All he actually witnessed though was two men being held at gun point, one of them was wounded and he saw me holding the gun.  I don’t want to mention his name because even though he was required to testify against us, I still considered him a friend and his grandson later married my niece.

The police came and an ambulance. Nothing more was said or done on that day.  I thought that was it, it’s over, but a few days later detectives showed up with a warrant for mine and my Dad’s arrest for attempted murder, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon.  Needless to say I was flabbergasted.  Dad posted our bond, by this time my son was home from the hospital,  that was my biggest worry.  I knew Dad was better prepared to handle the situation than I was, he was after all, a man of the world.

Times had recently changed though.  The City of Jacksonville had just been consolidated.  The court and justice offices had been moved to a central location.  The jurisdiction of our local Constables and Justice of the Peace had been moved out of our neighborhood to a downtown location where we were lesser known.  There we were just names on a booking sheet.  I thought that the whole story was a joke.  Our side of the story was the truth.  Who would believe these guys over us?

That’s not the way it works though.  The two bikers got a lawyer, they had a case against us.  I wasn’t allowed by law to speak with the only other witness against us.  Dad’s lawyer said that if they got a sympathetic jury they could win the case.  If they did, they could sue Dad in civil court and get everything he owned.  The State Attorney did offer some leniency though.  He said that if we would plead “no contest or nolo contendre,” that he would reduce the charge to aggravated battery for me and simple assault for my Dad.  We would be sentenced to 12 months probation and after it was completed successfully with no other charges, it would be expunged from out record.

As much as I hated to, I had to go along with it.  I wanted my day in court.  I wanted to stand up in front of 12 good citizens and tell my side of it.  Like the old saying goes, “It’s better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by six.”  That’s how I felt and still do, but it wasn’t just my life I had to worry about, it was that of my wife and son that mattered the most.  I had to look out after them and think about the jeopardy I would be putting my father in, if I didn’t play along.

The wounded biker healed up alright I guess. I can’t vouch for his love life though.  I read years later that he was the President of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and that he went to prison for some crime or another.

The Sate’s Attorney was true to his word, I year later my record was expunged and I was hired to work at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer.

I think I read years after that that he had been killed.  I don’t remember if he died in prison or on the streets but I have heard how motorcycle gang members relish revenge and I have waited until I was an old man to tell this story.

 

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