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Scared to death of cops and other terrible headlines

No Country for Old Men?

That belongs in the Toronto Metro and reasons I’m going to hell. Last week they printed a headline that said, “Shooter Had Time To Kill” about the massacre in Norway.

I’m not good at headlines.

The important thing to realize is that this is not the important thing to realize.

A man’s died and I’m now racing home to Tweet about it. Somewhere in Toronto someone is picking up the phone and finding out a loved one is dead. Listening to some explanation that makes sense as to why an old man would get “roughed up” by the Toronto police until he was so scared that his heart failed. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be so scared that you die from it. I’ve been really scared about things that didn’t matter. What did he see in their faces that made his body decide he had enough and would die on the street in front of them?

If I had been walking a little bit faster I might have seen it happen. I might be crying as I walked home, trying to figure out the words to explain what just happened to the first familiar people I saw to find some sort of semblance of reason and outrage.  I can weave heroic pictures of myself yelling at the cops as they roughed up the old man and somehow saving the day. Most likely I would be sitting there shocked and speechless, or strangely entertained like I stumbled into an episode of the Shield until he started going into cardiac arrest and reality began to sink in.

But I was a few minutes late so all I see are policeman erecting yellow tape in front of the Subway across the street from Christie Pits on Bloor.

“How much of a threat could he have been?” asks a skinny mid fifties Chinese man to someone else stopped and looking at the police tape.

“He was pretty old,” agrees the white haired man he’s talking to.

“And he wasn’t running that fast,” says the skinny balding Chinese man.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Old man. 60 or 70. Real old.  Ran from the cops. Think he might have been having a breakdown or something. They caught up to him and started roughing him up. Hurt him pretty bad. Then he started going into cardiac arrest. They put a sheet over his face before they put him in the ambulance.”

Inanely I think of how many mint chocolate chip ice creams I have had less than a hundred feet away at Baskin Robins.

“Do you know why?” I ask.

“Got here too late. Some people over there were there from the beginning.”

I walk across the street to see if I can find more people willing to talk. Most are exchanging rumours, stopped and staring at the yellow tape.  I’m pointed towards a man with long slick black hair, hands shaking a pack of cigarettes back and forth. Apparently he knows what happened.

“I heard you saw it. I was wondering if you could tell me about it,” I ask, putting on my best innocent boy face.  For some reason everyone is more willing to confess to me if I do my best Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone.

He doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. He’s already told the story fifteen times and can’t think of anything else worth saying. He lights a cigarette and looks at the  yellow tape.

“It’s okay, man. I ain’t got nothing important to say.”

I’m walking home thinking of whom I should call.  Who needs to find out about this as soon as possible to put the pressure on? How do I make this into a media blitz that really changes things?

Also thinking about why a 70-year-old man would run from the police. And what reasonable reason could they have for chasing him and then roughing him up? Wondering if it were the elderly man I saw about 20 minutes earlier yelling “I’ have a secret” in that cartoonish voice that simultaneously demands attention and encourages you to ignore them. That voice that says homeless or so far out of their mind they forget where they live and that demands in polite society you frown at them for lack of manners, or mock them for not politely shutting the hell up when they feel like screaming. If people would forget about it because he was crazy. If some day my own mental illness might put me on a street corner where the same thing is happening to me. My orange juice is now gone and I’m stuck with dealing with that sucking sense you get when only the pulpy remains are left. Suckkkkkk. Suckkk. I should stop.  Suckkkk.

I find myself craving ice cream until I walk right into my neighbour and his new girlfriend.

Back in the dying sun of the street where I’m staying this summer relating the tragedy I walked past and felt like I should involve myself in.  Him touching his knee and showing where the rubber bullet hit him last summer when another group of Toronto cops had to quiet a disturbance. Asking if there was anything to take pictures of. And shaking my head. Knowing that the world has seen a good deal of police tape in the last few years and no well taken photograph will make the image shocking. The body was gone in a few minutes and so were most of the people. They put a sheet over his face, slid him into an ambulance and a life was over.

I can’t help wondering what the cops must have been thinking when he started having a heart attack.  The looks on their faces when they released he had pulled a joker from the deck and decided to die on them. That this wouldn’t simply be another crazy person they’d beat the shit out of and walk away from.  That by the strange coincidence of having a bad heart and bad luck he would become something the city might remember.


I don’t remember anyone yelling or throwing anything at the cops. Maybe they were too tired to scream slurs when protests and petitions didn’t have any effect the previous year. Maybe they didn’t know if they should.  Some of those protesters had rich parents and Youtube videos of everything that went down. This is just one moment in front of a few witnesses who don’t feel like telling their story again.

Will the city remember the death of an old man? Maybe it comes down to if the cops find his next of kin.  If he has people who care enough about him to fight against this day in day out barrage of shit our great city takes for granted. Or if the news week is slow.

If he dies lonely I’m guessing a couple Tweets, a few small stories, in and out and we are back to contemplating whether it’s in good taste to make fun of Mayor Ford for being fat instead of just because he’s a fucking moron and more complaints about transit and whatever the weather is.

Then I realize it. It’s mind numbingly obvious. It’s the first day in weeks you can’t complain about the weather. Something shitty had to happen. Toronto can’t be allowed a perfect day.