Main | Monday, August 15, 2005

The First Time I Got Mugged

San Francisco, July 1995

It was my first night out by myself since I'd moved to San Francisco to be with Mark, a month earlier. I bounced around the Castro a bit, dropping in at The Midnight Special, Badlands and Detour, before heading over to The Jackhammer, which was somewhat on the outer edge of the Castro, at 16th Street and Sanchez.

The Jackhammer was packed as usual, even on a Wednesday night. It was Mark's favorite bar, he was friends with most of the staff, and had taken me there several times already during my first month in The City. I sat at the bar for an hour or so, and chatted with the bartender until he gave last call at 1:30AM. San Francisco, for all its gay fame, is still an early town.

From Jackhammer, I headed south on Sanchez Street, intended to turn right on 18th and suffer up that hill to Corbett Street, where we lived. I had gotten about a block and half from the door of the bar, when I noticed two very large men cross over from the east side of Sanchez seemingly on an intercept course with me, on the west side.

The street was rather poorly lit, I could see the men in silhouette only. My first thought was to turn around and head back for the safety of the bar. My second thought was to walk out into the middle of the street, where the light was brighter. Unfortunately, I also had a third thought flash into my mind.

"This is THE CASTRO. I am safe. This faggot ain't gonna turn tail and run, not this time, not now that I'm finally on home turf."

I was just processing how satisfied my third thought made me feel, as the men passed me on the shadowy sidewalk, when that thought was literally knocked out of my head by the fist of the closest man.

"Give it up, nigger! Give it up! We will FUCK YOU UP, nigger!"

The man speaking was brandishing a shiny silver handgun, with an impossibly long barrel. Later, it would occur to me that his gun looked like the type a circus clown might use, the kind that shoots out a flag that says "Bang!" I was dizzy from the blow to my temple and I staggered a bit as I jammed my hands down into both my front pockets, from which I produced all their contents and held them out. I never carry a wallet when I go to bars, usually just a small cardholder for my ID, and ATM card and some cash.

The second guy grabbed everything from both of my hands, then pulled something out his pocket and pointed it at me. Mace. Instinctively, I closed my eyes and jerked my head back and I felt the liquid hit the base of my neck, but none got in my eyes, mouth or nose. A moment later, I reopened my eyes and my two assailants were already retreating, back the way they came, not hurrying at all. I stood there for a minute and watched their murky figures turn east on 18th Street, towards the Mission District.

I turned and ran back to Jackhammer, but the door was locked. Already. But by luck, there was a payphone just to the right of the door. I dialed 911, and in 5 minutes an SFPD squad car arrived. Both cops, female. One black, one Latina. Gotta love SF.

The cops were all business, not very sympathetic. They asked me twice why I didn't turn around when I saw the guys coming. Then they asked me to describe my attackers.

"Um, they were both tall, about 6'2" or 6'3". And they were really heavy, like over 300 pounds each. And I think they were...um, Asian," I said, suddenly struck by the oddness of my description.

The cops however, didn't bat an eye. They shared a look and said "Samoan."

As it turned out, The Castro had been suffering from a series of muggings perpetrated by Samoan gang members. Later, I also learned that Samoans tend to be rather large people, a trait shared by many Pacific Islanders.

The cops were finishing up their report when an ambulance arrived, siren blaring. It being almost 3am, the noise brought dozens of residents to their doors, to my great embarrassment. Apparently, the blow to my head and my almost-macing meant that an ambulance had to be summoned, whether I requested one or not.

I sat in the back of the ambulance and the EMTs took all my vitals, as the black cop sat next to me finishing her report. I watched her tick a box that said "Assault, simple" and another one that said "Robbery, personal." I spotted another box further down on her form and pointed at it.

"Hey, I want you to report this as a "hate crime", too."

She shook her head, "Not unless he called you "faggot" or something like that. I'd have to show that the reason they targeted you was because you are gay."

"But he called me nigger, isn't that a hate crime?"

"Only if you are black."

"You're kidding!" I replied, dumbfounded.

She shook her head, "It's the way they all talk these days. I can't single you out."

She finished up her report by asking me some very detailed questions about the weapon. I know nothing about handguns, and I could tell that she was frustrated.

"Was it a revolver?"

"I don't know."

"Did it have a clip?"

I said, "Honey, all I can tell you is that it looked very big and very long."

She nodded, "Well, they always look big when they are pointing at your face."

I seized on the dick-joke opportunity, "Tell me something I don't know!"

She leaned into me and let out a whoop, "Well, it's a good thing you have a sense of humor about this!"

A few minutes later, the ambulance left, the cops left, and Mark arrived to take me home. The total take for the robbers? About $24 cash, my ATM card, my library card, and my Muni card. About six months later, I got an ambulance bill from the city, $125. Worse than the mugging.


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