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Fort Bragg, Mendocino County--
FORT BRAGG is the largest town on the North Coast of California between San Francisco and Eureka. It was a warmer than average summer, according to the National Weather Service. About a degree. Business was down but making a good recovery since the winter storms, according to Tom Yates, president of the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce. Crime was up, as it always is in the summer, according to Fort Bragg police chief Tom Bickel.
The summer began with a storm in June that shortened the season for urchin divers who, as a result, became black cod or sable fishermen. And at the "World's Largest Salmon Barbecue," as it is billed by its promoters, there were three separate incidents of domestic violence. All involved women beating up men--an increasingly common reversal of the classic pattern.
So how did such a summer end? How were its final hours spent? This way:
A TOURIST from San Jose--a Mr. E.--apparently decided to "hang some paper"--write a few bad checks--before leaving town. He bought himself a new set of tires at Coast Tire, and some $208 of clothes at a store in the Boatyard. Then, perhaps feeling pretty good about himself, he headed for Daly's Department Store on Main Street. Some jewelry seemed in order. Why not add some sparkle? But that is where he made a mistake.
The store at the boatyard had placed a call to his bank, finding out there was not enough money in his account to cover the check. In fact, as it turned out, the account had been inactive since July. A call to Daly's, to warn that store should E. go there, turned up the news that E. was in the store and had just written another check. Fort Bragg PD was called and Mr. E was detained.
It was Mr. E's notion that writing bad checks was not a criminal matter, merely a "civil" one--a personal matter involving Mr. E. and his bank. Mr. E. was informed other- wise.
That was in the afternoon of the last day of summer.
AT ABOUT 7 PM on that same day, Tony X., with a history of mental illness, was observed talking to cars while approaching Safeway market from the south. Police Sergeant Cliff Lathrope decided to "make contact" with Mr. X. PD has been watching over Mr. X. For the sake of Mr. X; for the sake of others.
"I'm just fine," said Mr. X, his voice rising. "And how are you? Are you being yourself? Do you know who you are?"
"I think so," said the sergeant softly. "I'm just concerned that you're doing okay. Are you taking you medication?"
"No," said Mr. X, a tall man in a straw hat whose eyes were beginning to bug out. "No, I'm not and I will not."
Mr. X. grew stiff.
"How come?" asked the sergeant.
"I've been ordered not to," said Mr. X.
"By who?" asked the sergeant patiently.
"By myself," said Mr. X. "It's mental castration. I won't have my brain castrated."
Mr. X. was holding a single can of Rainer Ale. He stuffed it into his pocket.
"Better buy it," said the sergeant. "Still living in the trailer park at . . ."
As the sergeant started his car and headed for the parking lot exit, he spotted Mr. X. cutting across the parking lot with the can of beer, perhaps his last for the summer.
"Got through the check out awfully fast, didn't he," said the sergeant.
AT 7:15 PM a crowd had formed on the jetty of Noyo Harbor. The surf was surprisingly rough. In recent weeks it had been glassy and flat, and the swells and choppy water did not seem natural. Later in the year they would seem the norm, but not now after the last couple of months of calm water.
But the crowd was not there to watch the surf. It was there because two salmon trawlers were trying to make it in through the jetty.
One held out while the other aimed its bow for the opening in the jetty. A wave picked up the rear of the boat, and it looked suddenly like a surf board aimed toward shore. But a surf board of tremendous weight and no agility. It aimed straight, but suddenly a wave picked it up causing it to turn. It headed for the left concrete wall of the opening. It shifted more, slammed into to the wall, tilted far over on the left side, looking like it was going to ship water and go down. But then it righted and headed away from the wall, though out of control. Next it drifted into the right wall, though not hitting it quite as hard.
Said the sergeant, "They are sometimes desperate to get in on a Friday."
The other boat headed out for deeper waters, probably to spend the night there. The bind is this: It is physically dangerous to go out; it is economically dangerous to stay in.
It is cloudy overhead. It almost looks like rain.
AT 9:30 PM, with just two and a half hours to go in a summer that has been bad for business but bully on crime, a call came in for a fight in the parking lot of Shooters pool hall on Main. Shooters is a new pool hall--large, clean, with a "family" look about it.
A small group of people could be seen in the parking lot near some pickup trucks. As the police car pulled up, one of the figures broke away and started to run. A woman pointed and said, "He's the one."
The sergeant ordered the man, a short, stocky Mexican, to halt. But he charged off, quickly disappearing from sight as he rounded the corned on Redwood. The sergeant backed out of the lot and pursued the man around the corner.
On redwood, though it had been no more than fifteen seconds since the man had rounded the corner, he was nowhere to be seen. A check of a bar and a restaurant, including the restroom, turned up nothing. The sergeant got back in the car and drove around a few blocks. Stopping across the street from the Tip Top Lounge, Fort Bragg's most notorious rowdy bar in the old historical district, the sergeant thought he spotted the man sitting in the crowd at the bar.
He drove to the alley in back of the bar and radioed for two other officers to come around front and let him know when they were "in position."
With two officers blocking the front door, the sergeant approached the man at the bar. He had short bushy hair, slightly long in the back. His voice, extremely loud and aggressive, seemed mismatched to the small though stocky figure.
"Hey, what are you charging me with," he almost shouted. "I haven't done nothing."
"Do you have some ID?" asked the sergeant.
"I don't have to show you no ID. I am just here having a drink."
"We need to step outside," said the sergeant.
"Why is your shirt ripped if you haven't been fighting?" asked the sergeant. It was a bit muggy out in the street.
"I am hot, that is all," the man shouted. He was all worked up like he was ready for another fight.
"What is you name?" asked the sergeant.
"I told you my name. I don't have to tell it to you again. I want a lawyer."
He was handcuffed and taken to the station. In a holding cell he kicked the wall. He spat. He wore the "mad dog" look. He glared.
"I want a lawyer. I am going to sue the shit out of you. I want to go to the bathroom. Take me to the bathroom or I'm going to urinate right here. . ."
His drivers license said his name was Michael D. Martinez.
The victim of the assault had taken off by the time Martinez was apprehended, so Martinez was charged only with disturbing the peace.
While the paper work was being completed on Martinez, another officer was called in to drive Martinez over to the county jail in Ukiah. That is because Fort Bragg doesn't have a jail anymore. The old one is not earthquake-safe, and the Fort Bragg City Council believes jails are too expensive.
It's about an hour's trip over to Ukiah from Fort Bragg. By the time Martinez is booked, it should be fall.
Fall is a lovely season in Vermont, where the leaves turn red and gold and brown.
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