|"St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle"|
OK, so maybe that was a trifle flippant for an opening, but a lot has been going on around here, and not all of it good. I didn't know how to begin.
On the evening of January 12, I became a victim of a violent crime—a home invasion to be precise. A little before 8 pm, I heard a loud and insistent knocking at the door. Despite my protestations that I was coming to answer it, the knocking continued. I opened the door without thinking, and there before me stood a young African-American man I had never seen before. He was dressed all in black and wearing a Balaclava style cap that has a hole for the face and a mask that can be pulled up to shield the face against the cold. He made a pretense of asking if this was “Billy’s” apartment, and when I told him repeatedly that it wasn't, and when I told him I lived here, he pulled a gun and forced his way in. He asked me repeatedly for cash, drugs, and jewelry, and I told him repeatedly that I didn't have any of those things in the house. I told him that he was welcome to whatever else he wanted—computer, stereo, TV, wallet, etc.
He took my cell phone and my debit/ATM card and demanded the PIN number, which I gave him. He gave the card to his partner outside who took it to the wrong bank. The second guy came back a few minutes later without any money. The first guy then gagged me with socks and tied me up with cords and duct tape I had in the house and then drove me into the bathroom in my electric wheelchair. He said his buddy was waiting in the living room, and if I made any move to escape or call for help, the buddy would come and shoot me. The first guy said he would go “to the store” and try to use my card. If I gave him a false PIN number, he said he would kill me. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, but I didn't hear anything from the living room, so I gambled that either there was no second guy in the living room, or if there was, he would come and shoot me and my life would be over. I told Jesus and Mary that I was very sorry for any bad thing I had ever done, and that if my life ended that night I hoped they’d cut me some slack and let me into heaven. :)
I wriggled until I got the gag loose and wriggled some more until I was able to reach the lifeline beeper around my neck. I hit the beeper and the alarm sounded and a few seconds later, an operator came on the line. I had to yell three times before I could make the person understand that I was being robbed. The odd thing was, I’ll swear the robber came back at this point and said something like, “How could you do me like that, man? I could only go to one bank,” and left. The operator called the cops, who arrived a few minutes later, asked me many questions, and tried to gather fingerprint and DNA evidence. I spent the night with friends of mine who are gun owners and know how to use them. I did not want to be alone. The next day I called my bank and reported the card stolen.
Since then, my brother Allen, who is a compliance officer at a credit union and knowledgeable about bank fraud, has visited me. He and I went online and found the addresses of the ATMs where the thief or thieves stopped and tried to get cash. They stopped at ATMs in local convenience stores between Marion, where I live, and Mullins, another small community about 7 miles from here. I turned this information over to the police, who followed up on it. I've since been informed that the owner of one of the convenience stores was able to identify one of the suspects from security camera footage at the ATM. I've also been told by the police that this suspect is wanted on a previous parole violation and is now believed to be in Columbia, the state capital. I hope this means that warrants and bulletins for this man are out all over the state, and that any cop he encounters will know to pick him up. The detective investigating my case has promised to call me when an arrest is made. I'm still waiting.
This was the most terrifying experience of my life. The guy threatened to kill me several times, and for a few days afterward I had a small bump on my forehead where he tapped me with his gun to prove he was serious. For a day or two after the incident, every time the phone rang or my e-mail jingled I nearly jumped out of my skin. My front door is double locked, and I will not open it unless I know who’s on the other side.
Despite this ordeal, I believe God was very good to me during the robbery and its aftermath. People have complimented me on my courage and presence of mind, but I attribute my survival solely to the Grace of God and the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Although I'm still trying to process what happened and still thinking about the incident more than I would like, I have thus far been spared flashbacks, nightmares, or any other signs of post-traumatic stress. I have made a point of praying for my attacker. Although there have been moments I've fantasized about revenge or what I might have done if I'd been an action movie hero armed with a gun myself, I don't really hate this person. I pity him. How could one human being become so morally and spiritually warped that he would think assaulting a middle-aged white dude in a wheelchair and stealing a measly few hundred bucks and a cell phone was a good idea?
I want this man brought to justice under the law, but I also pray he will have the opportunity to realize what he has done, repent of it, and turn his life around. Otherwise, there is a good chance he will wind up dying a violent death, either at the hands of the police or some other bigger, meaner thug with a bigger and meaner gun than he has, and with even less regard for human life. If that happens, he will face a justice more severe than anything a human court can dish out.