The Other Side of a Nightmare

Last year I posted Escape and mentioned that it had been a difficult year; and someday I would explain.  Someday is finally here.  Life hasn’t necessarily gotten any easier, but I’m still breathing so there is always hope.  At the very core of who I am, I believe I am an optimist, so I am really tired of hurting.  The last year and a half has been the most challenging of my 47 years of life.  The black cloud I mentioned in my Escape post started on January 14th of 2016; the day my husband was falsely arrested for breaking into a home 0.75 miles from our home. . .on our street.

My husband is active duty military.  Last January he was a month away from celebrating 24 years of spotless and exemplary service to this country.  He was home that Thursday because he was enrolled in a program where he could stay on active duty while being a full-time college student.  Classes were starting the following Tuesday.  It was a beautiful day that Thursday, amazing weather.  So he decided to go for a walk and enjoy it. He walked to the end of our street, came back up, looped through a cul-de-sac, stopped by our house to grab his favorite pipe and tobacco, and headed up the road and down the dirt access path by the power lines, to the wooded area by the reservoir to enjoy his pipe and the sunshine.

Mere moments later several police officers approached him; they were looking for someone wearing similar clothing to his who had broken into a townhouse a short ways away.  The owner was home and got a basic look at the person.  The officers told my husband they were looking for someone in their 20’s, but the clothing description was similar and they just wanted to speak with him.  As a military man of 24 years who had done nothing wrong, he cooperated (**side note: DO NOT COOPERATE . . .EVER; get a lawyer).

The police walked with him to the next road over from ours to speak with him.  He was surround by about a dozen officers and several police vehicles when another vehicle came over.  The officers in that car took pictures of him, and, as we found out later, the victim of the break in was in the vehicle to do a “show up i.d.”  Short definition is a suspect, a single suspect, surrounded by police, is shown to the victim shortly after a crime has occurred, and the victim is asked, “is this the guy?”  Oh, nothing could go wrong here.

I was at work when all of this happened.  I got an alert on my phone telling me my son’s school was in a safe-mode due to police activity in the area.  My husband passed our son’s school on his walk, and saw the police blocking the entrance to the school.  I was just about to call him to see if he knew what was going on, when he texted me he was sitting in the back of a police vehicle.  I called him and he explained what happened.  We chatted and even joked about the situation.  My husband doing something criminal was beyond absurd, and it didn’t occur to either one of us to be concerned.

Concern set in quickly.  His phone called me a short while later with a detective on the other end asking me when I last saw my husband.  He was very short with me and wouldn’t answer any of my questions.  Working in a law firm I should have known better much more quickly.  I immediately told my manager I needed to leave, and began getting myself home as fast as I could.  I sat at that police station for more than 5 hours before they would “officially” tell me he was under arrest.  They waited until he was already being transported to the county jail to tell me.  I had already contacted the only criminal defense lawyer I knew of, my criminal law professor from school.

I bailed him out that night, lying to my son and telling him that daddy was helping the police find a bad guy.  I didn’t know what else to say.  The police were kind enough to tell him the truth the next evening when they showed up with a search warrant to look for a pink Coach purse with a silver ring inside.  I tell ya, there is nothing like sitting in your living room with your mother, mother-in-law, husband, and 8-year-old son eating paper from nerves, while the police rummage through your things looking for something that isn’t there.  And knowing all of our neighbors are peeking through their curtains thinking, “WTF?”

A week later, exactly a week, I’m at work again trying to hold on to some sense of normalcy, when I get a call from my mom.  She was taking my husband to the hospital and I needed to come home.  He had called the help line at headquarters because his thoughts had gotten really dark, and he was going down a rabbit hole.  I was riding on the metro and just didn’t care how many people heard me pleading with my husband not to leave me, and reminding him that he promised me to always be there for me.  I was falling apart as I started getting calls from his headquarters because they couldn’t get ahold of him.  I couldn’t hold it together even though I was terrified the military would punish him for asking for help.  I didn’t want to destroy his career.

We have a satellite ER near us where my mom took him.  I talked with him and then the doctor as we waited for an ambulance to take him to the main hospital.  Once they transported him, I followed.  Just as I pulled into the parking lot I got another call from the CGIS (Coast Guard Investigative Service) officer who had tried to reach my husband.  They needed to serve him with a “protective order” ensuring he would stay away from the victim and her home, and make sure any weapons were removed from our house.  He was very kind and supportive, telling me that while his job is a criminal investigator, part of his job was to support and clear military members.  He called my husband a “brother Warrant”.  I am a very, very, very long way from forgiving that man for taking advantage of me when I was emotionally crumbling, and for lying to me.  He didn’t give a shit about my husband;  if he is a “brother Warrant”, then his name is Cain.

It took 6 months, one phone call record, and Google device location history to prove my husband’s innocence.  On June 15th, 6 months and 1 day, the judge signed the order dropping all charges.  We were so very lucky on so many levels.  Except, the nightmare wasn’t completely over.  See, when you’re in the military, they can still charge you for a crime, regardless if the civilian courts drop charges or convict you.  It took another 4 or 5 months for the service to drop whatever investigation they were doing.  Apparently “Cain” didn’t want to drop it.  He couldn’t believe the civilian police made a mistake.  My husband’s digital evidence didn’t hold up for him, even though experts in the I.T. and law enforcement field have called the Google device location history the most accurate information about the location of a mobile phone to date.  The only way we even knew they were done with my husband was a letter/email he got telling him his security clearance was reinstated (he was never made aware it had been suspended).

I share all of this now because I’m not over it.  Any of it.  I haven’t had a chance.  See, 2016 wasn’t done with me yet.  In October my mother, who lives with us, was diagnosed with cancer.  I tried my best, I really did.  I tried to be strong for my husband and put the police hell behind us.  I tried to be strong for my son and be a good and present mommy.  I tried to keep up with my coworkers and deal with the increasing workload and not screw up.  I tried to be strong and supportive for my mom, and help her fight the fight of her life.  I tried to put all of my own issues in a box to deal with at some other time.

But I had to throw in the towel and admit I am not Wonder Woman.  Waking up every single morning with a racing heart and a tightness in my chest, after little to no sleep had gotten old.  Being miserable and terrified every waking moment, of every single day, wasn’t working for me.  I was tired of knowing (even if they weren’t saying it to me directly) everyone at work was over being sympathetic, and done with me screwing up.  I didn’t like losing belief in myself and capabilities.  The anxiety, stress, and “compassion fatigue” had won out.  My boss graciously gave me a leave of absence to take care of my mom through her last radiation therapies, my mother-in-law and her health issues, and finally, myself.  The one person I have ignored since 1/14/2016.

My mind has realized that it now has time to deal with the anger, rage, and fear that I haven’t been able to look at for some time.  The shooting of Justine Ruszczyk/Damond in Minnesota on July 15th, followed by the suicide of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington on July 20th really hit me hard.  When Justine was shot all I could think was, “Thank God/dess they didn’t shoot my husband.”  And when Chester took his life, I realized how close I had been to losing my husband twice within a week.  I think it was because these two events happened so closely together, and it felt so similar to what I had dealt with a year ago.  And I have finally had time to think about how I feel now, and how much is still unresolved for me. . .and for him.

We no longer feel safe in our own community.  I am terrified of being pulled over for a minor traffic violation.  What happens if I have a tail light out and they see my husband’s name on the registration?  Am I going to jail? Is he going to jail?  Will I have a full-on panic attack and make them think I’m guilty of something?  What happens if me or my family are victims of a crime?  The police in our community have shown us they are more concerned with getting an arrest than with catching a real criminal.  Whenever I drive through our community and see a police vehicle I have to curse them and flip them off (making sure they can’t see of course); and if I see more than one vehicle in the same drive I start to panic.

When I have seen police in our neighborhood I have to turn around to make sure they aren’t going to my house.  There were several times this last year I had to force myself not to turn around because I would have been late for work.  I actually feel less safe when I see a police vehicle in my neighborhood.  It isn’t supposed to be that way.  Our current political climate has exacerbated for both us, the sense of loss; the loss of faith in those who are supposed to protect us, those who are supposed to do the right thing.

I took an Uber ride back in June and got to chatting with the African-American driver, and I started telling him what happened to my husband.  His response, “So he knows what it’s like to be a black man?”  I said yes.  My husband and I have had many, many conversations this last year about the abuse of power by so many police. My husband is as white, middle-class, and law-abiding as they come.  He is the poster boy for what happens when we ignore what the police are doing to “others”.  This shit is real.  And it can happen to anyone.  Being white and living in a nice suburban neighborhood doesn’t protect you from those who abuse their powers.  Being military doesn’t protect you.  Being a good person doesn’t protect you.

They don’t give you a parade when you are cleared of being accused of committing a crime.    The police don’t apologize or admit they made a mistake.  We still have to petition to get his record expunged, and probably his military records.  That’s on us.  The time, effort, and cost, all on us.  And we have to go to the police department and have him finger-printed all over again.  And go to Court again.  The whole process can take more than 6 months.  They made the mistakes and we are stuck with the left-overs.  And that’s just the civilian side; I have no idea how complicated the military will make it for us to be sure his record remains as clean and spotless as it had been for the 23 years and 11 months it had been prior to this nightmare.

I don’t think we will find true “closure” for a very long time.  I know I won’t.  Because I can never stand in front of the detective who arrested my husband and tell him what he did to my family.  I can never scream “fuck you!!” like I honestly need to do.  I can never tell him I know the victim told him my husband was taller than the suspect when she saw him at that show-up i.d.; I can never tell him that I know they did an improper and coerced dog scent trail, because neither my husband nor myself have ever placed one foot on that area of the neighborhood since we moved here in 2009.  I will never be able to confront him with his apparent inability to critically think and figure out that my husband in no way could ever fit the profile of someone who would break into a home in the middle of the day to steal a purse!

I will never get an apology for the trauma he caused my son.  The trauma he caused my mother.  The trauma he caused my mother-in-law.  The trauma he caused my husband.  I will never be able to tell him that I heard one of the officers rummaging through my kitchen refer to him as “sergeant”, then correct himself and call him detective, and ask him if he was so eager to arrest my husband because he was eager to prove himself and his either recent or pending promotion.  I will never be able to ask him (and I despise that I even have this thought) if he was so eager to arrest a white man.

I will never be able to confront the CGIS officer who was so eager to believe a “brother Warrant” was guilty.  I will never be able to explain the betrayal I felt at his treatment of my husband, and his manipulation of me when I was so very vulnerable.  I will never get an answer about why he wanted to pursue the case against my husband after the civilian court dropped the charges.

Somehow I will have to figure out how to process all of this anger and rage without any true sense of closure.  And I’m angry about that as well.  I’m working on healing, but it takes time.  I don’t like feeling this way, and I refuse to give up on my optimism, even if it is taking one helluva beating right now.  It has taken its toll on both of us and how we see the world, and react to everything.  It’s changed us in very deep ways.

He was having a hard time last weekend, he felt himself slipping back into the melancholy and dark places.  We talked it through, and I reminded him that even at the darkest parts of the night, there are still tiny dots of light in the sky.  You might have to search really hard to see them, but they are there.  Our light is us.  As a couple.  Through all of this, we just got stronger.  We were able to see just how strong our love is, how good we are together.  We never turned on each other, we never took our stress, fears, or frustrations out on each other.  We just held each other tighter and took turns being the strong one.

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you.  I have held on to this for far too long.  And read this blog post; or just google “don’t talk to the police”.  His famous YouTube video lecture comes up first.  The post describes exactly what happened to my husband.  Please don’t let it happen to you.

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