Jonathan Chen

Category: Writing

The Swindle, The Reversal, The Swagger

Here is the robbery in a nutshell. I wrote this in less than an hour so please forgive the hasty writing. The pictures though. Those were days in the making.

The Swindle

I arrive home in Sacramento (after a nine-hour drive from Los Angeles) on November 25th at 7:00pm. I park a block away and walk towards my apartment (follow the blue line). As I get close to the first gate, I notice that there are bags on the other side of it. They’re my bags. I panic and tear them open. All of my goods have been rearranged inside the bags. Shoes, clothing, all my electronics, toiletries, checkbook, camping equipment, etc. Tunnel-vision. I gaze at my apartment for the first time and notice, through the blinds, that my lights are on. I immediately run to my front door and kick it open. My place has been ransacked. The back window is wide open. The first thing I look for is my camera. Nothing. A void where it used to be. I run outside and check all the other bags. It’s not there. I dig through the robber’s bag. I find my hard drives, a loaded magazine, tools, drugs, a small notebook, and dog food. I call the police.

My neighbor Kat comes home and I tell her I’ve been robbed. She tells me she saw the intruder as he was leaving on my bike (though she did not know it was mine at the time) at 5:15pm. She said another neighbor was also present. She describes him. It’s Don. I call Don just as the police arrive. Don tells me that he saw and confronted a suspicious man trying to pry the front gate open (since he could not get out without a key). He asks the intruder if he lives here, and the intruder says that he is merely waiting for a friend and that he left his bike in the parking lot. Don thinks that he is a vagrant (because he sees all the bags outside my door) and tells him to take the bags and leave. He begins to panic and rides off with my bike. Don follows him momentarily, but he disappears around the corner. Don then moves my bags from the front of my door to the inside of the gate. The thief never comes back for the other bags.

Okay, back to the present. One cop takes down my information while another knocks on the neighbors’ doors. Their names are Eric and Josh. Really nice guys. They call in CSI. My friend Andre shows up to keep me company. Rebecca, the crime scene investigator, arrives to take fingerprints of the window and my toiletry bag. She’s really cool too. Everyone leaves. I’m lonely and sad.

The Reversal

I cancel my classes and spend the next day visiting pawn shops and walking around the neighborhood to see if I can find any clues. I obsessively check advertising websites to see if I find anything. Nothing. My friend Kevin calls me as I’m walking around the neighborhood. I stop to chat. Then, I go home in defeat. I am sad, but decide I should go back to school the next day.

The next day I go to school. Too sad to teach, but teach anyway. Probably shouldn’t have taught. Have no idea what I’m saying. Mind is elsewhere. Haven’t eaten or slept for two days.

I get home in the afternoon and my brother-in-law comes to visit (from LA) in the evening. I am trying to do work and he is picking out a spot for dinner. I get a call from a private number. I answer. It’s Toomey. Eric Toomey. One of the police officers from earlier. ‘Are you at home?’ he asks. I tell him I am. ‘Open your gate.’ I ask him if he’s outside. He says, ‘Yes, just open your gate.’ I ask him what happened. He says, ‘I think I found all your stuff.’ I jump out of my chair and kick the door open (I’m just kidding. I just pulled the door open. I can’t kick it open because it is not a swing door. You can only kick it open from the outside. I was just seeing if you were paying attention). I quickly open the gate to find Officer Toomey posing with my bag. He said he already checked the contents of the bag and everything was in there. The thief, it appears, never knew what he had with him. I hugged Officer Toomey and asked him how they were able to find all my stuff. He told me.

Here’s that story (blended together with my own hunch as to what happened): The thief tried to get away on my bike. Lucky for me, I never ride the thing, and the tires were completely flat. He couldn’t get far and he was already spooked by Don, so he went around the corner of my apartment complex and dropped my bike and backpack off under a neighbor’s stairwell less than a block away. Remember when my friend Kevin called me as I went wandering through the neighborhood? It turns out that my bag and bike were a few feet away from where I was standing the whole time. The neighbors have a motion sensor camera that detected movement and caught the thief dropping my stuff off under the stairwell before taking off. He also left his hat and some more tools behind. He was most likely coming back to get the loot later, but the neighbors reported the suspicious activity to the police before he could come back.

I hugged Officer Toomey a few more times. He could have just taken all my equipment to the police station since it counts as evidence, but instead he personally took the call and brought all my equipment and gear back to me. “This kind of stuff,” he said, “never happens.”

The Swagger

So, let’s look at some of the upshots of this incident.

What I lost: nothing (I felt violated before, but now I’m doing okay)

What I gained: an overwhelming amount of love and support from family and friends, new friends at Sac Police Department, an idea of what it’s like to work in CSI (I talked to another investigator, Mike, for about an hour when he came to photograph the evidence last night), a new set of bars to go across my back window, and a possible new fence for added security for the entire apartment complex

What the thief lost: his nerves, his backpack, his drugs, his loaded magazine, all of his tools, his notebook, his dog food, his hat, and all of his loot

What he gained: some new portraits of himself from the neighbor’s camera

Swaaaaaaag. Hey thanks for listening.