February 12th arrived and that is when Jim and Karen, the owners of the cabin Chris was hiding in, arrived to tidy up their home. This was the first spotting of Chris since he was seen by someone at a gas station on February 7th. Chris held them at gunpoint, tied them up and then took their car.
Not long after, he gave up on the car and then stopped a man who was driving a truck. He then took the truck on a short joy ride and then gave up on that idea after realizing he was not going to get anywhere.
While the details of Chris’s nearly week-long stay in the cabin cannot be fully explained (he had little food according to the couple that owned the cabin), we can surmise that he likely slept little, became somewhat delirious, and thought about all of the mistakes he had made. There was no way to turn back at this point. He had ruined people’s lives and destroyed families. But knowing Chris, he would never choose to spend the rest of his life in prison.
I began to wonder about his mother Nancy. I had yet to reach out to her, but I could only imagine what she was going through.
February 12th was already here, but what I described in the preceding paragraphs above happened later in the day, while my part of the story happened much earlier.
The director of the course I was in had granted us the morning off to study for our written exam. I will be honest I did not use it to study, but rather to spend time with my then 3-year-old and 11-month-old daughters. That time was something I could never get back, and I had missed enough time with them at this point.
So I stayed home with them and my wife headed to the gym to swim. I decided to start a load of laundry in the basement, while setting the girls up to play in the living room.
It was around 900am in Wisconsin, and in California Chris was still yet to be found.
While in the pool swimming, the manager of the gym came to my wife and interrupted her with a surprise, “There are some people out front waiting to see you.” She replied with, “Can I get dressed first?” And the answer to her question was, “No, you need to come now.” So out of the pool she went.
As all of this was happening, I was still in the basement. Before I could get back upstairs, I heard someone pounding on the back door. As I rushed upstairs I was worried about the girls. Almost instantaneously my wife yelled my name. As I opened the door from the basement into the kitchen I was grabbed and slammed against the wall. My wife had tears streaming down her face.
Seven US Federal Marshals had stormed our home. They had their rifles drawn, and there were 4 black SUVs lining the perimeter of our snow-covered yard. My wife begged them to put the guns away. My girls were just a few feet away in the other room. The officers began to raid the house, room by room. Everything was searched. For some reason, they appeared to believe that a 300-pound African American man was actually hiding in my home. My wife and I were separated into different rooms and the barrage of questions began. I had evidence of my limited interactions with Chris in my journal and they had evidence in the phone records that they had on me.
They occupied our home for about two hours, and I seemed to build instant rapport with them. Then they helped us push my wife’s car out of the snow. I will be honest, I remained a little startled for the rest of the day. Off I eventually went to school for a couple of hours of lecture. While there, a lot was happening in southern California, but I had no idea until I returned home.
The day the officers come to my house to look for Chris, he finally gets spotted and then corned into another cabin. I became glued to the TV. And there I was again. That picture that was once on his Facebook page from his LAPD graduation. Eventually they would cut me out of it, but I could still see my hand on his shoulder.
The events that filled the rest of the afternoon were exactly what I had expected. Those working the scene knew that Chris would not let himself be caught. Using some specialized equipment, and then basic things like fire, they destroyed the cabin. There was speculation as to whether or not Chris shot himself in the head first (which I believe he did). His driver’s license, LAPD badge, and some other items were found next to his body. He could not run or hide any longer.
I had finally lost my old friend. He obviously was not the person I once knew. To this day I still don’t understand. People that I have met and shared my story with don’t believe that he was ever a good man. And I get it. I did not write this blog series to defend him in any way. This piece was my way of finally sharing my side of the story. It has been eating away at me for the past 4-years because I have continued to wonder if I could have done anything to stop him from going down a dark path.
Why did his name mean that much to him? Was there something else? I guess I will never know. And what can we gain from this?
For starters, life is all about choices. Every single day that we wake up and breathe, we have a choice as to what kind of an attitude we will have. We get to decide if we will smile or carry a frown around. We decide if we will lend a hand to someone in need, or if we will walk by like we did not even see the person next to us. We get to decide if we will leave chicken leg bones on the windshield of someone’s car (like someone did the other night to my wife’s car) or if we will simply place them in the trash. We decide if what someone says about our good name needs to be internalized or if we can just let it go with the wind.
I can never get my friend back, but I have no excuse to keep on living and to make other people’s live better each and every day.
Thanks for hanging around. The next series of my writing will be quite different than this last adventure. Have a great weekend and remember that it is ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS.