What would you do…if Sherriff’s Deputies approach while you are working on your car in your driveway—and you are a wanted man and have alcoholic biochemistry? (TAR Lite # 38)
1. Put your hands over your head and tell Deputies you’ll follow their instructions?
2. Get on the ground with your hands in the air?
3. If you’re alone, ask that Deputies lock up the house before carting you off?
4. Slam the car hood shut, jump in the car, yell “I have to leave” and peel through your backyard and through a neighbor’s fence?
Congratulations if you selected # 4, which is what Donald Howard, 43, did when Deputies came to arrest him on warrants for three misdemeanors and three felonies. When he couldn’t get through a wooden and chain-link fence, he bailed from the car and escaped on foot. Over the next two and a half hours he broke into several houses. At one, he took the time to stuff a duffel bag full of electronics and jewelry; in another he helped himself to a clean shirt—leaving his sweaty one behind; in yet another, he took three Capri Sun juices from a refrigerator and drank them. Later, he broke into an occupied house and asked for a glass of water. The shocked homeowner told him to get out, which he did after peeking out the front door to see if the coast was clear. The Sherriff’s helicopter, four K-9 officers with their dogs, 20 other deputies and five officers from a local police department tracked him down when a neighbor called 911 about a man running through backyards. After yelling “(expletive) you!” when deputies told him to stop, he explained he needed water because he was “extremely thirsty” from smoking crack cocaine—not from running for 2 1/2 hours, as we might expect.
Unsurprisingly, Howard’s rap sheet goes back more than twenty years, starting with an arrest in 1993 for burglary; it continues with more violent crimes, including battery. The outstanding warrants involve several counts of grand theft. Somehow, until now, Howard had managed to avoid prison.
Consider the costs of a helicopter, four canine units, 21 deputies and five officers. Think about the number of crimes we know he’s committed—with likely five times that figure for which he wasn’t even a suspect. Consider the fact that these tremendous costs could largely have been avoided if in his first appearance before a judge he was told he had a choice: “Keep using and you’ll remain in prison (or go back if you ever fail a random alcohol or other-drug test, to which you will be subjected often), or get and stay clean—and remain free.” The monstrous waste of human resources, not to mention the pain, anguish and danger society faces because we fail to offer a credible threat of consequences and keep those promises, is staggering.