Bad Company

Last week I got a call from a former student of mine who is also a competent criminal prosecuting attorney. He wanted to share a disturbing incident from the week before that illustrates how your friends can affect your safety.

“Jason,” as I will call him, was in his car with a friend on the way to a birthday party. They intended to stop at a local supermarket and liquor store to pick up some chips and beer for the gathering.

Trouble Can Find You Anywhere

Since it was Saturday, the parking lots in front of both stores were relatively full. Jason slowly drove down an aisle, looking for an empty parking place. Several young men were walking down the middle of the aisle in front of them. As Jason’s car approached the group, one of them turned his head and exhibited what Jason described as a “sneering” expression.

That member of the group and his cohorts continued walking slowly, making no attempt to merely move over to the side to let the car by. Now, while he is a gladiator in the courtroom, Jason is one of the nicest, most polite people I know. Additionally, as a prosecutor who also carries a gun, he is well aware of the need to avoid confrontations.

With Friends Like This…

It was no surprise to me that Jason simply ignored the young man, figuring it would only be a couple of minutes before he reached an empty parking space. Unfortunately, his companion did not exhibit the same patience. He reached over and hit the horn on Jason’s steering wheel, then stuck his head out of the passenger-side window and yelled, “Hey, losers, move it!”

Jason was shocked and yelled at his friend, “What the hell are you doing?” But before he could chastise his friend, the group of young men turned and began approaching the car. Jason put the car in reverse, hoping to be able to back up to the main driveway, where he could turn around and take off.

“I just wanted to get out of there,” he recounted.

But just as Jason reached the driveway, several cars were blocking his path in both directions. Meanwhile, Jason saw the group of young men trotting toward him and his friend. Members of the group gestured wildly as they approached.

Jason quickly called 911, saying only that he needed a police car. He gave the name and location of the store, then disconnected the call. By this time, the group of young men had surrounded the car, banging their fists on the hood and windows, screaming and swearing.

Jason said that it was at this point that he put his hand on the gun he carried on his hip but did not pull it from the holster. He admitted he was probably only seconds away from doing so. Thankfully, the “whoop, whoop” of an arriving police car caused the young men to run off.

Choose Wisely

This situation fortunately ended without any serious consequences. After a brief explanation to the police, Jason and his friend were able to go on their way. But it’s easy to envision how things could easily have gone very, very wrong.

But what this case really illustrates is how being conscientious yourself is not enough. You need to be careful about the people with whom you associate. “Bad company” can drag you into trouble.

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