Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Christmas Story, Chapter 6, What Would Jesus Do?

The following is Chapter 6 of A Christmas Story by Mike Furches. You can see the preceding prologue and Chapters in the archives or links section of this page. This story is copyrighted by Mike Furches and intent to publish in book form in 2015. This is the variation prior to final edit prior to publication.

By Mike Furches
The noise around the Tulsa police station was distracting. Thankfully it wasn't the days of typewriters or it would have been worse. The keys were getting pounded by people obviously not trained in keyboarding on the computer was bad enough but the conversations taking place on the phones, the various ring tones of the cell phones, interviews and conversations. It couldn't have been any noisier at the center of Times Square in New York City on a Friday night. It was almost impossible for Charlie and Tayra to focus during the conversations with Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay. They were meeting at this branch of the police department in Tulsa because it is where the suspect James Briscoe was being held. While the crime took place in Owasso, it was still Tulsa County and the amount taken in the theft had taken the crime from a simple breaking and entering and petty theft to a grand larceny with extenuating circumstances.
This situation the Hamm's was facing due their circumstances was different than anything they could imagine. Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson were after all Christians. It wasn't that Christian police officers were any more dedicated to their jobs than non Christians but with Charlie and Tayra being Christians and their faith so important to them, for them, it was nice to know and convenient to speak to someone who understood their commitment due to their own commitment in a situation like they were in. Yes the family had been robbed but they took their faith seriously and knew their obligation to their faith and fellow human being went beyond what most would expect. They had seen and heard so many times from places like Facebook of others who professed faith in Christ and make comments but never took into consideration the souls of others they knew that didn't have a relationship or faith in Christ. Jesus loved those who were not his followers just as much as those who had rejected Him. Charlie, in particular, was always mystified at how one could profess Jesus, yet, display a heart that seldom forgave or loved others who were going through their own issues. It was understandable that the state and federal government had responsibilities to execute justice and to dish out punishment but everyone at the table where the Hamm's was sitting knew God had expectations for those who said they followed Jesus.
Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay were pleased; they realized they were dealing with a case that due to the victims being Christians they could discuss their own faith openly in looking at the options regarding the consequences of the crime. Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay were professional in their job performance but a part of their job performance was the obligation to assist the victims and see the enforcement of the law and to also see to the best interest of the victims, in this case, their friends, the Hamm's.
It seemed as if the background noise in the room got louder and louder. If it wasn't a woman crying at another detectives desk it was a man getting angry when he heard news he didn't want to hear, raising his voice and yelling about how the system didn't care about the innocent. Even though the female police officer had a gun on her hip during the questioning with the man getting more and more angry it was easy to see how uncomfortable she was with the man. You could even see her itching to unlatch the lock on the guns holster as the man was now turning red from his anger. She maintained her calm though but this, the ringtones, conversations, pounding on the computers, copy machine and ruffling of papers being wadded up and thrown into the trash, it all added up and distracted Charlie.
Finally Charlie couldn't take it anymore, " Hey, hey, hey" He said as he raised his hand with his head bowed down in frustration. "Is there any way we can go some place else to talk, this is driving me crazy and I can't think at all?"
Detective Hay and Sergeant Jackson looked at each other, smiled with Sergeant Jackson responding, "Absolutely, we are kind of used to it but if the person we are questioning asks, we are given levity to go someplace else for the questioning. Personally I love it when we get out of here. Any suggestions?"
Charlie asked, "Is there any place we shouldn't go or do we have to meet here or what?"
Sergeant Jackson was still smiling, "No we can go to just about any place you like, any thoughts or favorites?"
Charlie looking relieved said, "I'm getting kind of hungry and seems like I can always talk over a diner table, is the Corner Cafe down on Peoria and Route 66 ok?"
"Well it is a time of day we can go down and go into the back room which is usually pretty empty and talk. If it was at lunch I would say it is too busy there for confidential conversations but for now I think it would be okay. What about you Bob, what do you think?"
Detective Hay smiled, "Heck I think it would be fine, besides a good cup of coffee and one of those giant cinnamon rolls would be great. Let's go for it. If we get there and it is too busy to talk then we can find some place else."  Detective Hay's smile got bigger as he followed up, "Of course if that is the case, I can get me one of those cinnamon rolls to go."
They all laughed a little as they made plans to meet at one of Tulsa's cafe landmarks on Route 66.
Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay along with the Hamm's sat at the big round corner booth near the corner of Peoria and Route 66. Detective Hay made the request of the wait staff that if possible to sit customers at least 1 booth away when coming in that he would appreciate it and leave a special tip. Of course that meant money not one of those spiritual tracts that the wait staff were often stuck with. The wait staff were understanding and since it was so slow during this time of day there was no problem. There was the occasional clanking of spoons, forks and plates as the bus boy and wait staff cleaned tables but it was much quieter here than at the station. The coffee and food made it more bearable and relaxing as well.
"So what are you guys thinking?" Detective Hay said as he wiped off a bit of icing from the corner of his mouth.
Charlie and Tayra were holding hands, not so much as an act of love but because they drew comfort from each other. They had spoken with each other and their children and knew their situation was about more than being robbed, some of the stuff was recovered but mostly gone and the person who stole from them was a minor, about the same age as their son Sammy. They also knew they had an obligation to display their faith and offer forgiveness, while at the same time understanding their obligation to see to it that justice occurred plus doing what they could to insure this type of thing didn't happen to someone else from the same person.
Charlie was hesitant to ask the question but he asked anyway, he knew he would never know if he didn't ask, "Can you tell us anything about the kid?"
"Yes please," Tayra responded, "we aren't the only ones involved in this whole thing. From what we understand the young man has had a tough life, had 2 brothers and a sister who are all now in protective care.  I mean, where is the mother, what is going on?"
Sergeant Jackson responded. "While we have to be careful about what we share there is a lot more than you likely realize that we can share. The young man and his family are from Turley and the mother hasn't been seen in some time. She has a criminal history and has not been involved in her own children's lives much. She gives them her vision card or food stamps but the boy, James Briscoe, has more or less been taking care of the younger children. It appears as if he has had a few minor complaints against him but all for little things and usually in regards to some of the friends he used to hang out with. He has pretty much been on his own for the last year except for his brothers and sister. He does have a history of petty theft but no charges. It looks like this theft and some of others all happened around the holiday season. He has been pretty cooperative in giving information and the bottom line is he stole to provide for his brothers and sister, but that is still a crime."
"What type of a kid is he" Charlie asked
Sergeant Jackson responded, "I'm not sure I understand your question, do you mean what race is he, is he mean, polite, overweight?  I'm not sure of what details you are asking."
"No we have seen photos and all and know his approximate age and that he is black but have you seen him to know about his mannerisms, things like that?" Charlie asked.
"Oh okay, I can respond to that." Detective Hay said.  "I interviewed him a couple of times since I was the primary detective on the case. To be honest I was kind of surprised at the kid. Please now, don't take what I am going to say now wrong but I am telling you based on what I felt my spirit saying, or possibly it was God's Spirit speaking to me at the time but I felt kind of sorry for the kid, especially the 2nd time I spoke to him. He told me a bunch of things in the first interview that I am always hesitant about but this kid opened up and to be honest I have seen so many sap stories that I didn't know what to believe. After our meeting I decided to do some checking. He told me that he only took things to get the money to buy gifts for his brothers and sister. I didn't know if I should believe it but the story checked out. All of the sells to the pawn shops that we discovered checked out to be around one of the kids birthdays or a holiday, especially Christmas. The more I checked, I saw his mother had a history of drugs and prostitution and there really was no one in the kids life to care for him. His grandparents were the primary care providers until their death, just as he told me. His mother clearly has her own issues and like I said, we haven't found her, who knows if she is even still around, alive or dead."
Detective Hay was now even more serious, clearly showing there was something different about this crime. "James Briscoe is a kid who has had a tough life, yet in his own way done the best he could to keep what family he had together. I don't know if Mike or Sergeant Jackson knows if this is typical for the kids in this community or not."
Sergeant Jackson responded, "I wish it was more routine and true than not. Unfortunately this kid on the surface, despite the robbery looks like a good kid who for some reason saw value in keeping his family together the best he could."
Charlie and Tayra was listening intently, Charlie spoke up, "This just complicates things, I don't want to ruin the kid, see him pay for the rest of his life for what he was doing. Heck, it is one of those situations that if I had known about I would have tried to get our church to do something to help the family out. I really feel kind of sorry for the boy."
Sergeant Jackson jumped in, "I don't know what good it would have done, it seems as if a lot of what he did he did because he was afraid his family would be broken up. I would have tried to get our church to help in the same way but the reality is, that with 4 kids, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have taken them into foster care as a family. Despite trying to help, more people would have found out about the situation with the brothers and sisters and the family would have still been broken up and adopted out. Even right now as much as it pains me to say it, the two brothers are in one home and the sister is in another. It isn't like Family Services and SRS has the best track record in placement of children either. It isn't that they don't care but with their limited resources and not enough qualified families to place a family like this, it is just tough. Heck I have wondered when looking at this case, would I have done things any differently than him? Yeah, I don't mind telling you guys, from the time I have spent with James, investigating this case for prosecution, the kid was dealt a bad hand in life. I feel for the boy but truth is, it is rare you find a good kid in the situation he is in. Unfortunately, it may be one of those very rare cases where the situation he was in drove him to do the best he could and the system and that situation didn't help things at all for him."
 "I don't have any idea what we can do" Tayra responded with her head bowed looking at the cup of coffee in front of her. "Is there anything we can do to satisfy those impacted by his other crimes which he will be charged for, plus see to it that the powers that be are satisfied.  I mean is there anyway we can help the kid while at the same time holding true to our faith to love all people and to serve those in need. I can't help but think of Matthew 25, the part about visiting those in jail. Is it possible that sometimes doing what we can to prevent people from going to jail could be a part of the solution and call that God expects from us."
Tayra was tearing up, "Come on now guys, I am asking you not just as police officers. I am asking you as brothers in Christ who happen to have some knowledge of the system as police officers who have dealt with the criminal justice system in the past, is there anything we can do? I am at a loss here, I am asking for accountability and I am trying to implement the concept spoken about in Charles M. Sheldon's book In His Steps to more than just a catch phrase, I really want to know in this situation, what would Jesus do?"
Sergeant Jackson and Detective Hay looked at each other, Sergeant Jackson spoke up, "Bob you want to go with it or do you want me to?"
Detective Hay spoke up, "Let me share what we spoke about as an option Mike."
Detective Hay turned to Charlie and Tayra with a concerning look, "You both know that we can't officially tell you what to do don't you?"
"Of course I know you can't tell us what to do from a legal perspective as a police officer, but I am asking you as Brothers in Christ, do you have any suggestions or ideas, are there options?" Tayra asked, "Charlie and I have also spoken about this, we want to follow our faith and do what we believe Jesus would have us do."
"Thanks for asking and clarifying things in that way." Detective Hay said as he turned to Sergeant Jackson, "By the way Mike, I am now officially on break."
Sergeant Jackson smiled, "Yeah, I think I am going to go on break as well."
Tayra and Charlie were a little confused until Detective Hay turned towards them to clarify. "Now that I am on break I can officially speak as just a citizen, a friend and more importantly a Christian brother. Mike and I have done some research and weren't going to say anything to you but after checking into this kids background, we were praying that something like this would come up as we thought it may with your faith being so real and all."
"Are you guys familiar with the concept of victim restitution?" Detective Hay asked the Hamm's.
"I think a little." Charlie said, "Isn't that where the criminal or person doing a crime has to pay back for the things they destroyed or stole or something like that?" Charlie asked.
"Yeah, that is basically it but sometimes it can be a little more complicated." Sergeant Jackson responded.
"What do you mean by being a little more complicated?" Tayra asked with a sense of curiosity as to where the conversation was going.
"Give me some time to explain if you will," Detective Hay responded.
"Sure Bob, please do help us understand." Charlie stated.
Detective Hay looked at them, took a deep breath and started to explain, "There are some situations where the amount stolen is small, say a shoplifting charge or something like that, even a drive off from a gas station where someone gets gas, then drives off without paying for it. In some of those situations because the jails are so full the judge will have the perp pay for the court costs plus pay the victim of the crimes back their full due. Often in these situations there are small fines to pay plus a probation or something of the sort. Your guys case is somewhat different though. While James Briscoe was in a bad situation, I would go so far as to say a very difficult and unfair situation, he is still responsible for his crimes. There are several charges of petty theft that may or may not come up due to his past actions, the theft involving you guys, the fleeing and alluding from running in an attempt to capture from the police add up. It is likely in his case there could be serious and severe fines, in your case, the amount was substantially above the theft category and the crime becomes Grand Larceny, those could have easily turned into felony crimes which would have made this worse, it is now possibly a felony case. Bottom line, the Briscoe kid is looking at severe pay back restitution and fines, plus a better than 90 percent chance of doing upwards to a year in jail. His options are very limited."
Tayra hearing this jumped in with a voice of concern:  "What about his brothers and sister, what will happen?"
Detective Hay responded with a reassuring smile. "Remember now to hold on, let me finish."
"Okay" Tayra responded, "Forgive me, continue on."
Detective Hay continued as Sergeant Jackson looked and listened on. "Regarding the family, I don't know what we can do for sure, that is a Family and Protective Services issue, I can say there are some things we may be able to do to at least maintain contact, and God willing, a miracle to see the family ultimately adopted out as a whole into another family. I will assure you though, it is highly unlikely that the family will see much of each other over the course of the next year without the proposal I am going to present to you going through.  Are you ready to listen with open ears to our thoughts as Mike and I have already spoken about this as a possibility?"
Charlie and Tayra looked at each other, their hand grip getting tighter now, "Yes please but can we pray first?"
"Sure." Detective Hay responded.
Charlie led them in a simple but heartfelt prayer, "Father give us ears to hear what you have to say to us. Let us be the children you want us to be, help us to do what Jesus would do. In Jesus name we pray, amen. Okay talk to us," Charlie said as he grasped Tayras hands even harder, now with their fingers interlocking.
Detective Hay started to explain, "In some rare cases with victim restitution, when done at the request of the victim, the judge will allow the perp or convicted be allowed to work for the victim, sometimes, even for a duration of time, while supervised, as opposed to spending time in jail. If requested and approved, it would be possible to have him pay you back for the items he stole, thus holding him accountable, plus at the same time, you spending time with him for a duration of time that could be considered time served. In other words, he would be under your supervision with oversight by the police department. There would have to be times to check in, or in some situations the officers overseeing the situation could come by do check ups, do meetings in your home that type of thing, likely along with Family Services checking in on him.  Now don't take it wrong, but if he failed to show up, failed to follow through, it is possible that he could go to jail immediately and the original time that could have been given could be given on top of everything else that he had already paid back and served. Any questions up to this point?"  Detective Hay asked.
"What about the other places that he stole from, what would happen with them and their case against him if you would please?" Charlie asked.
Due to the nature of those crimes, on their own, he would likely only face a fine and restitution along with some probation. It all kind of depends on the judge though due to there being somewhat of a history here, despite the circumstances.  Remember the judge is an executioner of justice and is to see to it that justice is handed out blindly. A good judge will take these things into consideration and if the right proposal is made then he will likely consider that. The last thing most judges want to do is put people in prison if they don't have to, especially people like James Briscoe, most of them still have a heart and his situation, again, with the right proposal it could impact and influence the judges decision, I suspect it would in most cases."
"So there is a chance that depending on what we do or recommend those things could be looked at in a minimal way or with less severe consequences for James?" Tayra asked
"Well sort of," Detective Hay responded, "He is still going to have to pay restitution and be held accountable for those things. If we can somehow see to it that the restitution to all parties can come about in some way, even if a restitution concept that has your family primarily involved it is likely the other victims from previous crimes won't make a fuss. Of course what you need to understand, is that in some ways, because of the crimes, your family is the one that right now, in a lot of ways holds the cards. If you want victim restitution, it is possible you can get it. Unfortunately, if that is the route you take, it is something you have to pray further about because it will take time, time you are invested in this young mans life. I will say though, it really does seem like the only way he will have any hope of maintaining any contact with his brothers and sister with possible visitation and times set up, with supervision but that is better than being at Juvie and never seeing them. God knows, sometimes those places do more harm than good and I would hate to think of what type of person he would become after coming out of a year in that place. I also believe though, that with the testimony of Mike and I that we could even see the police charges greatly reduced and talk to our supervisors about not pushing some of the things or having them pled down. Believe me, as policemen, we want to see people succeed as well, James Briscoe is one of those kids we could have a chance with."
"Couldn't he visit his siblings while in juvenile detention?" Tayra asked.
"It is doubtful because they would likely be in different foster homes and there is no guarantee that James would be held here in Tulsa, he could very well end up in the Oklahoma City facility. Unfortunately as well, as a sibling, he has a lot less rights than his parents, even with his mother doing what she does and her absence, she in some ways has rights to visitation more than he does, so truth is, no, no guarantees at all if he goes to juvie. What are your thoughts?" Detective Hay asked? 
"Is there some way we could meet with him prior to making this kind of a decision?" Charlie asked.
"That really all depends on the system." Sergeant Jackson answered, "Best thing you could do is to contact the courts, request to speak to his attorney or representative, let them know you are thinking about this. I imagine they would jump at the opportunity to set this up as it presents itself as more of a win than a loss for the system and they also know the likelihood of this kid having little chance when he gets out of juvie.  I really do think they want to help as well, most aren't so callused that they desire to throw the good kids to the wolves. Contact them if interested, meet with them make the proposal and go from there. It's worth a shot and a good one at that."
"This opens up all kinds of doors. While is sounds positive it is something we have to talk about as a family because it looks like it will impact our family." Charlie said.
"I would certainly recommend it, and I know I would be available to come and answer any questions your kids may have if it is something you want to consider." Detective Hay said.
"Yeah I'd be glad to come and assist as well if you want." Sergeant Jackson stated.
"Well let us talk about it tonight if that's okay. When do we have to let you know something." Charlie asked.
"I think as soon as possible." Detective Hay said, "This thing could be in the court within the next couple of weeks and you want to have all of your ducks in a row including meeting with him and his representatives. The greater the chance the details are worked out and presented to the judge at the time of the hearing, then the chances will be better of the judge accepting the proposal."
"Let us pray about it through the day, talk with the family and I promise we can have our answer within the next 2 days." Charlie replied, asking "Will you guys be able to come over to talk if we need you within that time frame?"
"That's fine, just remember, at this point in time, time is not your friend." Detective Hay responded. "As to coming to help we will be there in a heart beat assuming we aren't on a case." Sergeant Jackson just shook his head in agreement.
"I understand." Charlie said. "We'll make it a priority as soon as we get home."
"That sounds great and let's keep praying about this whole thing, especially James Briscoe but also his brothers and sisters, they really are the innocent ones here and there is a ton of other issues around the whole thing, from the mother, to the home, and from the family being together and wondering at the same time, where was the church in their communities in being there for people in need."  Sergeant Jackson said.
"Man isn't that all the truth." Detective Hay said while reaching down for another bite of his cinnamon roll. After looking at his watch, he looked up and said, "Alright now Mike, looks like break is over."

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