It was a nice weekend afternoon when he and his wife decided to grab something to eat at the food court of the local mall.

Typical Saturday at the mall. Kids running around, moderate lines at the various fast food counters. They picked a Subway counter and stood in line.

Then a Hispanic kid, maybe 16 or 17, cut in front of his wife just as they were next for the counter.

He reached over and tapped the kid on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, the line’s back there.”

The kid turned and snarled.

“Then go somewhere else old man, and take your bitch with you.”

He grabbed the kid by the scruff of the neck and kicked his feet out from under him as he slammed the arrogant young face down on the counter. Blood spurted in several directions as the kid crumpled to the floor, screaming.

It was over in a couple of seconds, the kid grabbed his face and ran away. The manager of the Subway leaned over the counter and grinned.

“Little bastard had that coming. Whatever the two of your are having, it’s on the house.”

They were eating their sandwiches a few minutes later when the kid came back with two buddies.

“Gonna kick your ass man,” one of the buddies said. “You don’t treat a brother like this.”

The brother said nothing. He held a rag to his swollen and puffy face. Blood still covered his shirt.

He took a drink of soda and regarded the two newcomers. Like their wounded comrade, they were maybe 16 or 17.

“Tell you what,” he said. “Let me finish my sandwich and we’ll go outside and take care of your problem, but if I have to interrupt lunch, I’ll be even more pissed off than I am now.”

His wife reached across the table and touched his arm. She had seen him like this before. When that look came into his eyes, people got hurt.

Before the kids could answer, two mall security guards came up with a cop, who quickly stepped in between the young toughs and the couple at the table.

“What’s going on here?”

“Bastard jumped out bro’ here and beat him up for no good reason,” one said.

“That’s not what the manager over at the Subway said. He said your buddy here started it.”

“I didn’t start nuthin’ man,” the kid muttered through swollen lips.

By this time, a crowd has gathered. The cop decided they should move to the security office. One inside the office, the cop handcuffed the kid with the busted jaw.

“What’s that for?” The question came from one of the other kids.

“Disturbing the peace.”

“What about whitebread here?”

“He’s going home with our thanks.”

The cop took statements and they left. His wife was still shaking.

“You know I come to this mall all the time. The gang runs things here.”

“Not any more.”

On Monday, an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney called. Could he drop by to clear up a few things about the incident at the mall?

Sure.

When he walked into the prosecutor’s office, the kid was there with his parents. The father jumped up and started screaming that he wanted charges of assault filed.

“For what,” he said. “The young man needed to learn some manners, something he obviously hasn’t learned at home.”

The prosecutor interrupted.

“This accomplishes nothing. Sit down, I need to get to the bottom of a couple of things.”

He turned to the kid.

“Look, you’re four months away from being considered an adult in Virginia. With the statements I have from witnesses and your juvenile record, I could have you declared an adult for this and put you away in Richmond. That’s hard time. Or you can go upstairs with your parents right now and cop a plea with the juvenile magistrate. It’s your choice.”

The kid started to protest, but the prosecutor silenced him with a wave.

“Listen you dumb little shit and listen good. You’re one of the most incredible idiots I’ve run across in a long time. First you pull that stunt in front of a crowded mall, with tons of witnesses standing around. Then you cut in front of an ex-Navy SEAL. You’re lucky you’re alive. Go take your lumps juvie and get the hell out of my hair.”

The kid huddled with their parents. They decided to go upstairs to juvenile court.

After the left, the prosecutor opened another file on his desk.

“Now,” he said, “let’s talk about you and your actions.”

“What actions. You just told the kid it was his fault.”

“Look, I did that to keep them from being able to sue you. Once that kid copped to a plea, you were protected. But I can’t have civilians beating the crap out of juveniles simply because they cut in line.”

“What do you want me to do? Put up with it?”

“There might be a lot less blood on the counter. Look, you’ve got the training to kill somebody and if you’re not careful, you will. I’ve got a file on you for putting a mugger in the hospital in D.C., for threatening the manager of your condo and for busting the cheekbone of a Seven-Eleven clerk who tried to short change you. You’re right on the line friend and I’d advise you to tone down that temper before I have you in front of a judge.”

He left the prosecutor’s office, fuming. A few days later, a formal letter arrived from the Commonwealth’s Attorney, advising him that he had been formally warned about “violent tendencies.”

He called his lawyer. What the hell does this mean?

“It means keep your temper under control,” his lawyer said. “Don’t hit anybody.”

It took a few days to calm down. A couple of weeks later, he and his wife went back to the neighborhood mall. Several gang members were standing at the counter of a McDonald’s as they approached.

One whispered to the other. They looked at him and then moved away, allowing he and his wife to be first in line.

–Doug Thompson
Washington, DC

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