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Alan Riquelmy: On the run

Somewhere in my head, on the periphery of my consciousness, I knew the cops were chasing me.

It had, after all, been one of those days. It might as well have ended with an officer yelling for me to stop.

The whole thing had started, of course, with a news story. A local attorney had been under federal investigation for some time, and we’d gotten a tip that a former employee of his — who happened to be the newly elected district attorney — had been summoned before a grand jury.



This grand jury was in a city about 90 minutes from the town where I worked. No one knew precisely when the witness would appear before the panel. That was information we knew we wouldn’t get.

That left one option: wait in front of the federal courthouse until she showed up.



So, planning for a long day, I drove to the courthouse 90 minutes away, parked, and found a good spot with a park bench or two right in front. I could see traffic pass as drivers searched for parking. No one would escape my gaze.

No bathroom. No food or drink. No smart phone. Just waiting in this spot for six hours, watching cars go by.

Maybe if I’d had some lunch, or a break, I’d have noticed a group of police officers approaching from the left. They were a good distance away. Easily within sight, but far off, like they could have been going anywhere. There was no reason to think they’d come here for me.

After all, what had I done except sit in front of a federal courthouse for hours, eyeing its entrances?

Fortune, as I’ve learned, likes to rear its head for mere amusement’s sake. The cops approached from the left, just as the witness slowly drove past from the right. I saw her profile behind the driver’s wheel like it was in slow motion. There was no mistaking her identity. I knew I would get confirmation of why she was here, which would make the biggest news story of the month. Maybe the year.

All I had to do was be standing by her car when she parked, notepad in hand, ready to ask my questions.

And that meant I needed to run to catch her.

From the authority’s perspective, they saw the subject mentioned in a police call start sprinting as soon as officers came within eyeshot. So one of them began running after the guy, shouting for him to stop.

I heard something, or thought I heard it. The witness’ car turned one corner, then another. I stopped running once I was halfway around the courthouse and the car had disappeared. The officer caught up shortly afterward, and the trouble really started.

I say “trouble” too easily. An angry officer telling me to stay put while I’m wandering away from a group of cops who’d just chased me, mumbling about finding a grand jury witness. If I’d looked different, been wearing different clothes, this scene could have turned out much differently.

What appears an amusing dinner party anecdote to some ends in violence for others, for no other reason than the color of one’s skin and the bias behind someone else’s eyes.

But me — young and unaware after running from cops — ultimately walked away, got into the courthouse and found the witness. I got my story, typed it up and filed it before trudging back to my car.

Key in the ignition, the engine started, I pulled away — at the time not realizing the gravity of what might have been.

Or how it might have run away.

Alan Riquelmy is the editor of The Union. He can be reached at 530-477-4239 or at ariquelmy@theunion.com.

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

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