Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Urban Legend Come True

This week I learned that sometimes Urban Legends take a turn for the worse.

According to Barbara Mikkelson’s Snopes.com, urban legends are those stories that circulates widely, being told and retold with differing details or in multiple versions and are believed to be true by most people. Whether the event actually occurred is irrelevant to the classification as an urban legend. They may be true in some cases, and the details may have been embellished upon, and the details have been altered over the years, i.e. where it happened, when it happened, the identify of those involved, the reaction of the tale.

We’ve all received urban legends though the email or posted on the company bulletin board, warning us of impending dangers that do not, in reality, exist as told. Our intelligence, if we possess any, most often tells us that the tale couldn’t be true, but our imagination runs way at times and we begin to believe that perhaps, just maybe, the common fallacy, misinformation, old wives’ tale, strange new story, rumor, celebrity gossip or other similar item might just be true.

This morning (Saturday, March 28, 2009) in the Austin American Statesman there was a story (http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/03/28/0328shootout.html) that very much reminded me of an old urban legend. The story as reported in the Statesman is not funny, as the original urban legend was perhaps meant to be. This is a case in which one individual twists an old story and attempts to make the urban legend become true. The results in this case were disastrous to the victim, who lost a leg and months of imprisonment. But let me tell the story and you can decide for yourself if perhaps urban legends are at play here.

David Lozano, 50, and his wife, Rosemary, were having marital problems leading up to an incident on March 11, 2007, according to a police affidavit.

That night, a man with whom Rosemary Lozano had had an affair threatened David Lozano just after midnight in a phone conversation. Then that man, Miguel Salazar, told Lozano he was coming over to the Lozano home 1205 Silverton Court in Northwest Austin. Salazar then called police and reported a domestic disturbance at the Lozano home.

Police officer Roger Boudreau, a four-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, responded to the disturbance call at Lozano’s home. The police officer was alone and did not call for backup. He arrived in the dark of night, dressed in all black as other policemen, since it is thought that 1) black is an intimidating color and helps police in overpowering individuals and 2) the black color blends into the dark preventing them from being observed, which allows them to move about unseen, like Ninjas in the night.

The officer had the video camera in his car running to record the incident, as well as a small lapel microphone. As he knocked on the front door of Lozano’s house, he distinctly heard someone chamber a round into a gun through the door and immediately moved off of the porch.

Lozano, thinking it was Salazar knocking on the door had intentionally made the sound with the gun to scare Salazar away. Not hearing anything more than the knock on the door, after a few minutes, Lozano looked through the peephole and seeing no one there, he opened the door with gun in hand.

For those not familiar with Texas law, I should explain that in Texas individuals have the right to protect their family, home and property with deadly force. Trespass has it’s consequence in Texas and often ends in a deadly mishap. Police have often been shot at, wounded and even killed when trespassing onto a person’s property at night without properly identifying themselves properly, as was the case this night.

With the video in the police car and the lapel microphone recording all that happened, it was obvious that police officer Boudreau never identified himself as a police officer, not did he say anything aloud. When Lozano opened the door with gun in hand, Boudreau responded by firing two times at the silhouetted Lozano and then ran around to the side of the house into the dark to protect himself from the light pouring from the opened front door.

Perhaps Boudreau acted in fear and simply forgot to state he was a police officer. Perhaps out of fear of being shot with the gun in Lozano’s hand, he failed to state, “Stop or I’ll shoot!” or some other warning that should have been made before firing. This is not necessary if the police officer feels that he is in immediate danger of his life.

Lozano, still believing that it was Salazar that knocked on the door and shot him, followed the dark figure around to the side of the house. Another shot was fired, and recorded on the audio portion of the video tape in the police car and over the lapel microphone worn by the police officer.

Lozano was wounded in the leg by the gunshots from Boudreau. Lozano was arrested and three months after the confrontation, a grand jury indicted Lozano on charges of attempted capital murder and aggravated assault by threat. Lozano’s wound was far worse that first thought, and eventually his leg was amputated while he was in jail awaiting a hearing on the matter.

Lozano, spent 13 months in jail before he was released on bail in 2008. The release came after the Travis Country Assistant District Attorney Steven Brand admitted, "We believe that Mr. Lozano maintained a reasonable belief that on that day and time he was defending himself, his wife and his property," something that the defense had suggested from the very beginning.

The dismissal came after a series of expert witnesses for both the state and defense cast doubt on whether officer Roger Boudreau told the truth about the confrontation, according to attorneys in the case.

Since Boudreau's patrol car video camera was on during the incident and he was wearing a lapel microphone, which recorded the audio, expert witnesses analyzed the recordings and the crime scene. There was no doubt that the police officer never identified himself and in fact had fired the first three shots in the incidents. The men had different caliber weapons that could be distinguished from each other on the recording.

This led prosecutors to dismiss the initial charges and they also acknowledged that there were a number of inconsistencies in the actual evidence and in officer Boudreau’s account, implying that the officer lied about the circumstances.

But the Police Chief, Art Acevedo stood by his police officer and brought charges up again in July 2008. The second grand jury indicted Lozano on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Again, further analysis by expert witnesses found that Boudreau fired the first five shots. In recent weeks, state experts had independently determined that Boudreau fired at least the first three shots, prompting prosecutors to abandon the case once again.

But, wait! That’s not all.

An APD News release by the Public Information Officer of the Austin Police Department dated Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 12:11 a.m. concerning the officer involved shooting, tells a completely different story than what eventually came to light. The press release read:

At approximately 12:11a.m., Northeast Area Command patrol officers responded to a 9-1-1 call of a family disturbance at 1205 Silverton Court. Upon arrival at the scene an officer approached the residence and could hear a verbal disturbance coming from inside the house.

Officer Roger Boudreau knocked on the door to make contact with the individuals inside the residence. Officer Boudreau heard what he believed to be a round being chambered into a gun as the suspect approached the front door from inside the residence. The suspect immediately opened the front door and began to fire at Officer Boudreau. Officer Boudreau sought cover as the suspect pursued him. Officer Boudreau returned fire striking the suspect. The suspect retreated inside the residence. After a brief period he returned to the front of the residence and surrendered. He was taken into custody by responding officers without further incident.

The suspect was transported to Brackenridge Hospital where he is listed in fair condition. The suspect has been identified as David Lozano, 50 (DOB: 04-16-56). Lozano has been charged with Attempted Capitol Murder, a first-degree felony. Bond has been set at $300,000.

Officer Roger Boudreau, a four-year veteran, has been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of the investigation and the presentation of the case to the Travis County Grand Jury. This is standard procedure when an officer uses deadly force.

This was the third officer involved shooting in a 2-week period. The Austin Police Department, which has undergone a Federal investigation for excessive force in the past, decided that Boudreau not only acted in his best interest by firing the first three or five shots and running away, they awarded Boudreau the Medal of Valor, the department's highest honor, for displaying exceptional bravery in the incident.

Last week, Lozano filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Austin, Boudreau and Boudreau's supervisor, Sgt. Stephen Deaton, claiming, among other things, that he was a victim of excessive force and that his civil rights were violated.

The citizens of Austin are in an uproar about the incident, and are demanding that the officer be fired for using excessive force, his Medal of Valor be returned, and that he be prosecuted for attempted murder of Lozano.

Now, for the Urban Legend story that I was reminded of.

The Anger Management Urban Legend

In a fanciful tale of revenge that began circulating on the Internet in January 1997, we hear a similar story. Perhaps the instigator in the above true story had read the tale and decided to use it to his advantage in some sick and twisted manner, but then again, maybe not. It could be a simple case of circumstance. It is called the Tale of Revenge:

A man comes up with an inventive way to get even with two rude fellows.

Now get this. I was sitting at my desk, when I remembered a phone call I had to make. I found the number and dialed it. A man answered nicely saying, "Hello?" I politely said, "This is John Jo and could I please speak to Robin Carter?"

Suddenly the phone was slammed down on me! I couldn't believe that anyone could be that rude. I tracked down Robin's correct number and called her. She had transposed the last two digits. After I hung up with Robin, I spotted the wrong number still lying there on my desk. I decided to call it again.

When the same person once more answered, I yelled “Jerk!" and hung up. Next to his phone number I wrote the word "Jerk," and put it in my desk drawer. Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills, or had a really bad day, I'd call him up. He'd answer, and then I'd yell, ''Jerk!" It would always cheer me up.

Later in the year the phone company introduced caller ID. This was a real disappointment for me, I would have to stop calling the Jerk. Then one day I had an idea. I dialed his number, then heard his voice, "Hello." I made up a name. "Yo. This is Telly with the telephone company and I'm just calling to see if you're familiar with our Caller ID program?" He went, "No!" and slammed the phone down. I quickly called him back and said, "That's because you're a “Jerk!"

And the reason I took the time to tell you this story, is to show you how if there's ever anything really bothering you, you can do something about it. Just dial 823-4863 and tell the guy he is a Jerk!

But, wait, there’s more…

The old lady at the mall really took her time pulling out of the parking space. I didn't think she was ever going to leave. Finally her car began to move and she started to very slowly back out of the stall. I backed up a little more to give her plenty of room to pull out. Great, I thought, she's finally leaving.

All of a sudden this black Camaro come flying up the parking aisle in the wrong direction and pulls into her space. I started honking my horn and yelling, "You can't do that,.. I was here first!"

The guy climbed out of his Camaro completely ignoring me. He walked toward the mall as if he didn't even hear me.

I thought to myself, this guy's a jerk, there's sure a lot of jerks in this world.

I noticed he had a For Sale sign in the back window of his car. I wrote down the number. Then I hunted for another place to park.

A couple of days later, I'm at home sitting at my desk. I had just gotten off the phone after calling 823-4863 and yelling, "' Jerk!" (It's really easy to call him now since I have his number on speed dial). I noticed the phone number of the guy with the black Camaro lying on my desk and thought I'd better call this guy, too.

After a couple rings someone answered the phone and said, "Hello."

I asked, "Are you the dude with the black Camaro for sale?"

"Yes I am,” came the reply.

"Can you tell me where I can see it?" "Yes, I live at 1802 West 34th Street. It's a yellow house and the car's parked right out front." I said, "What's your name dude?" "My name is Don Hansen." "When's a good time to catch you, Don?" "I'm home in the evenings." "Listen Don, can I tell you something?"

"Yes." "Don, you're a “Jerk!" And I slammed the phone down. After I hung up I added Don Hansen's number to my speed dialer.

For a while things seemed to be going better for me. Now when I had a problem I had two Jerks to call. Then after several months of calling the Jerks and hanging up on them, the whole thing started to seem like an obligation. It just wasn't as enjoyable as it used to be.

I gave the problem some serious thought and came up with a solution.

First, I had my phone dial Jerk #1. A man answered nicely saying, "Hello."

I yelled "Jerk!" But I didn't hang up.

The Jerk said, "Are you still there?"

I said, "Yeah.."

He said, "Stop calling me."

I said, "No."

He said, "What's your name, pal?"

I said, "Don Hansen."

"Where do you live?"

"1802 West 34th Street. It's a yellow house and my black Camaro's parked out front." "I'm coming over right now! You'd better start saying your prayers."

"Yeah, like I'm really scared, “Jerk!" and I hung up.

Then I called Jerk #2.

He answered, "Hello."

I said, "Hello? Jerk!"

He said, "If I ever find out who you are..."

"You'll what?"

"I'll kick your…!"

"Oh yeah? You just wait right there. I'm coming over right now, Jerk!" And I hung up.

Then I picked up the phone and called the police. I told them a big gang fight was going down at 1802 West 34th Street. After that I climbed into my car and headed over to 34th Street to watch the whole thing.

I turned onto 34th Street and parked my car under the shade of a tree half a block from Jerk #2's house. There were two guys fighting out front. Suddenly there were about 12 police cars and a helicopter. The police wrestled the two men to the ground and took them away.

A couple of months go by and I get a call for jury duty. I was picked to be on a trial of two guys charged with disorderly conduct. As luck would have it, it happened to be the same two guys. I might have influenced the jury, because when they announced the verdict, they said, "We the jury find the defendants to be guilty, and a couple of Jerks!"

Barbara Mikkelson, in her Internet site, Snopes.com, tracked down the many different versions of the story and deems it an Urban Legend.

She states that the hero's name is variously given as John Jo, Patrick Hanifin, Patrick Hannifin or Steve Sims. The name he makes up when posing as someone asking about Caller ID is Telly or Herman. Depending on which version you encounter, the miscreants are labeled by different names, sometimes using profanity and at other times not, depending on the person who passes along the story. Just as I have eliminated the offensive language in the tale in order to tell it on my “family friendly” site.

Mikkelson states that the original version was not possible as it gave the first phone number as 722.4822, in which the last two digits could not have been transposed. Later versions gave the phone number as 823.4863, which shows that someone was paying attention and changed the number to make the story more believable.