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The stories I write generally fall into a few distinct categories. One is the generic “police story” that is actually the basis of this column, to tell you about something that happened that seems perfectly normal to me, but is apparently weird as shit, funny, horrifying or depressing to most anyone else that’s not on “The Job.” These stories are why I was asked to start writing here some time ago.
The others are either a story or an opinion piece that makes my bosses (or worse yet, their bosses) receive phone calls suggesting they “read the crazy shit Alex Teach wrote this week,” in which blood pressures rise, pupils narrow and, occasionally, phone calls are made, or have the same effect on my editor (which has the same effect and the story itself as it is chopped to pieces or scrapped altogether, though this is very, very rare to their credit). Other columns cause both the editors and administrators discomfort, elevates my own blood pressure and makes me consider, however briefly, taking up smoking again.
That’s what came to mind when I decided to open this week’s column by saying I am sad that I will not get to see Jesse Mathews die with a needle in his arm.
I instantly think of a few paraphrased lines from (of all things) the movie “First Blood” where a local sheriff says “God, I really wanted to kill that kid.” An Army colonel, in response, says, “That doesn’t sit well with that badge, Sheriff.”
The sheriff agreed, but that last line has hung with me since before I wore a badge myself.
You have to be better than the lowest common denominator as a cop. You have to have control of those specific emotions, even when it’s personal (as it was with the man Jesse Mathews killed in cold blood, and the man he tried to kill with a bullet to the back like the rotten, cowardly son of a bitch that he is).
I remembered that line when I stood in darkness over the body of my friend Deputy Donald Bond and on the scene of the murder of Officer Julie Jacks. Now I think about it as Jesse Mathews pleads guilty to killing my friend Sgt. Tim Chapin during the course of an armed robbery so that he (Mathews) can dodge the death penalty.
The death penalty is redundant, it’s legal hypocrisy—being killed because you killed. Period. It takes 20 years for the execution, and it’s done humanely and not in public; it’s not a deterrent. But it does reek of justice, however dark, and the part of us that still has sharp teeth and is willing to pull another person down if it means not drowning likes that aspect of it, and in this case the “beast” is denied. But I am allowed to feel this way, and I’m putting it on paper.
I am, however, relieved that he will never draw a breath of free air. That Tim’s family (all of us) won’t have to endure a trial, the inevitable appeals, all rehashing of every gruesome detail, that this, albeit less dramatically, is done, and with consent of the family. As “done” as it can be, anyway.
The killer of my friend was sentenced to life (plus 25 years, for good comic measure). I am not a bad person, you know; I have risked my life for nearly half the time I have been alive for strangers, and I believe in a just world. But while I am supposed to be Christ-like in actions and thoughts, I did want to see that son of a bitch dead, and you’ll just have to deal with it.
Because so … will … I.