Friday, March 30, 2012

Call the Police and Get the Gun | Casey's Last Word

It was 11 p.m. on a February night in 2005.

My wife was asleep and I had just turned out the light when someone pushed the buzzer on the gate in the 6-foot iron fence that surrounded our house in the Montrose section of Houston.

I picked up the phone and asked who was there.

No answer. I didn’t think much of it.

But a few minutes later, I heard a loud crash and the tinkling of glass.

Someone was coming in.

I quickly pulled on some pants, checked the upstairs bedroom of one of my daughters, and headed downstairs.

He was at the bottom.

He was about 5-foot-7 and slender, dressed in slacks and a wife-beater undershirt.

He was bleeding from squeezing through the glass pane he had broken with a patio chair.

And his arms and shoulders were entirely covered in tattoos.

I had to choose whether to act out of two very available emotions: anger and fear.

He didn’t appear to be armed, so I decided on anger, yelling things I normally wouldn’t want my daughters to hear.

And I hollered to my wife, “Call the police and get the gun.”

I was grateful she didn’t call back, “What gun?”

A few minutes later she came down the stairs armed with a field hockey stick.

As it turned out, no weapon was necessary.

He tried to push by me to get upstairs, but didn’t fight when I blocked him.

And he didn’t resist strongly as I shoved him to a door and pushed him out.

The police arrived within minutes and caught him hiding in the next block by following his trail of blood.

He apparently was tripped out on drugs and said he was trying to get away from people who wanted to kill him.

He pleaded guilty to unauthorized entry and served 30 days.

I wrote about the event, including the line about being grateful for my wife not hollering, “What gun?”

I received dozens of e-mails from Rambo wannabes, some accusing me of being less than a man because I wasn’t armed, and of being derelict because I hadn’t “done your duty and erased the creep.”

Some also made racist comments, assuming he was an illegal alien based on the name I obtained from the police report: Jose Calzada, 26.

Then there was the e-mail from his mother.

“I was reading an article Wednesday evening and realized it is my son you were writing about,” she wrote. “I am very sorry for what he did to your family. As equally I am grateful you did not shoot him.”

She would later show me pictures of a blonde little boy growing up in the upscale Houston suburb called The Woodlands – straight A’s, Boy Scouts, Little League ball.

Until he hit puberty.

He fell in with a tough gang and got into drugs.

Despite counseling, psychiatric care and even treatments at psychiatric hospitals, Joey (he was never named Jose), was lost to the streets.

He accumulated a modest criminal record, a drug bust and a burglary – nothing violent.

And he communicated occasionally with his mother.

“He called me from jail and told me he had done something really stupid,” she told me. “He had broken into a man’s house.”

She said she was glad he was in jail. He was safest there.

Under Texas law, I would have been within my rights to shoot him.

I’m glad I didn’t. He didn’t mean us any harm.

Even more importantly, his mother had suffered enough.

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