A failed Search & Rescue.

Dateline: Thursday, 08 February 1979. I was packing my gear in Muskegon after a failed search and rescue for hot air balloonist Eugene Mounts. We had spent a week working the waters of Lake Michigan from Holland, Michigan north to Muskegon.

We had coordinated with search teams across the lake in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. No luck. Eugene Mounts had been declared missing and presumed dead.

I had done search and rescue missions across Michigan, this was the first of which I took part where no part of the man, his means of conveyance (here, a hot air balloon and gondola) nor any of his gear was located. It was a sad ending to a sadder saga for the Mount’s family.

From Muskegon, I had an hour and a half drive to Lansing, Michigan. There, I was scheduled to teach a street survival seminar to students, faculty, and security at Michigan State University later in the week.

From there I would end up in Flint, Michigan just an hour away along I-69. Flint was home to the University of Michigan’s Flint Campus where I taught a similar course, remarkably to one of MSUs biggest rivals. I loved my time in Flint, Michigan, but even then, Flint was showing stress fractures.

Detroit, Michigan’s automotive industry was a huge part of Flint, Michigan’s economic stability. It’s no secret that Flint had a high crime rate, probably only challenged by its high unemployment rate. Auto manufacturing was being outsourced to overseas car companies, the country was still reeling from the oil crisis and GM was downsizing employees from a peak of 80,000 in 1978 until less than 8,000 by 2010.

Preparation for the real event.

My original Lessons Learned was going to focus on Eugene Mounts, sort of a 40-year after-action review.

That meant I had to retrace my steps and where and when events occurred to ensure the fidelity of my blog. That’s what brought me back to Flint. I remembered visiting Hurley Medical Center on that trip. I make a habit of visiting the closest Level 1 trauma center to where I am teaching or training, a policy I still follow to this day 41 years later.

It’s a good habit to get into and I highly suggest you consider it. Whether you are going on a vacation, business trip or going to be working in a new area, find the Level 1 trauma center closest to you and rehearse the route.

I make up a journal for each business trip I take. It’s nothing fancy, just a normal college ruled composition notebook. I title it for the trip complete with the dates. On the inside cover I put my emergency contact information and blood type.

On page one, I list my TRAVEL IN. I add my flight information, locations, rental vehicle emergency contact numbers, literally all the stuff I will need while traveling into my location. I also list the numbers of any membership clubs and the appropriate card numbers next to the associated block of information.

For example, if I was staying at a Marriott Hotel in Tampa, and I had a Marriott rewards card, I would write that information and my confirmation number from the hotel in this paragraph. 

I keep this up for flights, rental cars, hotels, and any other travel-specific information necessary. Then I leave a blank page.

If I come up with information or changes, this allows me to add that new information without cutting, pasting, or arrows leading to future pages. Remember, once I add something to this trip journal, I never delete it. I may change meetings and dates, but the original information is sometimes crucial at some point in the future, so I retain it for posterity.

The next page begins with my client’s information. I take a regional approach to travel. When I’m on the road for one client, I’ll try to stack tasks so I can meet and greet other potential clients or conduct a training session or two while I am in the area.

This regional travel approach matches our Arcadia Cognerati Regional Training Approach. It’s cheaper and spreads our brand and footprint everywhere we go. After finishing that section followed by a blank page for each 24-hour period, I work from left to right (ensuring that I am covering the first day through the last day of my trip, inclusive).

The final entry for that trip will be a TRAVEL OUT page. On it, I’ll list the flight information, airport locations, rental vehicle returns – anything that will make my travel to my next duty station simple.

Generally speaking, Brian Marren is my ‘Battle Buddy’ on our current Arcadia ‘travel team’ and we try to connect trips, flying from one training or business meeting location to another so that we may travel two or three weeks in a row then take a few days off at home.

COVID19 has hampered our travel, but it hasn’t slowed our commitment to training and education, now using virtual means and the internet.

Now to the emergency information of which I spoke.

I take my college ruled composition book and flip it over. Starting from the last page working forward my first entry in the location and contact numbers for the closest Level 1 trauma center. Then, leaving a blank page in between, I continue with ambulance service, police agencies and any other specific information that is germane to my trip and will ensure my safety and that of the team with which I am traveling.

My last two bits of advice are (1) personalize your composition book. I rotate from one bright color to another and write a simple word on the cover for the mission I am on in large black letters. I never allow it out of my grasp, briefcase, or sight. And, (2); get into the habit of placing the entire composition book into your file cabinet once you are done with that project. It’s there, ready for a referral. I can go back to any training opportunity, trip, or business meeting and see exactly where I was, who I was dealing with, and who paid the way.

Some of you are saying, “That’s what my (insert name of technological advancement here) is for”. I don’t trust technology fully, I have had many times where I was out of cell service or away from a recharge station, but my college ruled composition books have never failed me. Oh, and I can get two for a dollar at our local Walmart!

Right now, one or two of you are probably commenting that I put myself at risk for having my personal information stolen. I would challenge you that your information kept on your computer is much more at risk than the hunter’s orange composition notebook in my carry-on luggage.

Present-day Flint, Michigan.

As I scrolled through recent news articles on Flint, Michigan finishing my research for this ‘way-back machine’s’ Lessons Learned, I found I couldn’t take my eyes off the article about Cal Munerlyn.

Calvin was working as a security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint, Michigan a couple of days ago.

Around lunch, Sharmel Teague entered the store with her daughter, her husband Larry, and her 23 year-old-son Raymonyea. Cal advised Sharmel that she needed to be wearing a facial covering to shop in the store. Cal was merely enforcing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID19 executive order on behalf of Family Dollar.

The order allowed the business to remain open, people to continue shopping for necessities and essential items, and kept Calvin Munerlyn gainfully employed.

Sharmel was apparently unhappy with the decision, so she spit on Cal and began to yell at him. Based on her behavior and unwillingness to comply with the rules, Cal asked Sharmel to leave the store.

Sharmel left the store and according to prosecutors, contacted Larry and Raymonyea a short time later and told them that she had been disrespected by Calvin Munerlyn at the store. Moments later, Larry Teague and Raymonyea Bishop went back into the Flint, Michigan Family Dollar where Cal was working and shot Calvin Munerlyn in the back of his head.

Calvin Munerlyn was transported to the same Hurley Medical Center I had visited so many years before, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Cal leaves behind his wife and eight children. Friends say that Cal spent part of his week offering free training in a local weight room and spending time line dancing with Flint seniors. 

So What?

Some writer will have you believe that the shooting was due in some part to COVID19, or the Governor’s order, or that perhaps Cal instigated the events that led to his death.

Someone will certainly blame guns; others will complain that it was the store’s responsibility and then the focus will return back to Governor Whitmer. When it’s all over, this incident that played out in just a few minutes will have been responsible for taking 4 lives off the street.

Cal’s for good, then Sharmel, Larry and Raymonyea who have each been charged with first-degree premeditated murder. Under the felony firearms rule all three are as guilty as Raymonyea who allegedly fired the fatal shot.  

Raymonyea’s additional charge of felony firearms possession was due to the fact that he was illegally carrying a gun while committing the murder. His dad, Larry, was a prior convicted felon, and Larry was alleged to be in possession of a firearm which is an additional felony charge.

The coronavirus order didn’t kill Cal. The lack of critical thinking did.

The lack of the ability to see what the spirals of your behavior will lead to creates an immediate situation where one acts without regard to future consequences. In every incident where critical thinking is lacking, that lack of empathy, compassion, reason and logic combine to increase the level of violence. People act it out rather than think it out or talk it out.

De-escalation techniques work. But where do you learn them?

Certainly, recidivists and illegal guns are a big part of the problem. A recidivist is a convicted criminal who repeatedly reoffends. Had these criminals been in jail for their offenses they wouldn’t have been on the street in the first place. Had they not been illegally in possession of guns, there wouldn’t have been an incident.

In this tragic incident and in others played out across our nation during this pandemic, the lack of critical thinking skills leads our sons and daughters to use higher levels of force during incidents that required no force or violence to navigate or resolve.

Case in point.

A few blocks away and a few days away a party got out of control in Flint, Michigan. A local bar was hosting a birthday party.

Two women began fighting inside the bar and the security guard, a well-respected local football coach for Flint Community Schools, intervened to stop them. Moments later, the security guard, Allyne M. Hall, 27, of Flint, found himself overwhelmed by combatants and tried to back out of the fight.

Finding that he couldn’t get clear, Allyne pulled out an illegally carried gun and fired ‘a warning shot’ to get the attention of the fighters. That was apparently his intent, but the round he fired ended up hitting and killing 28-year-old Dequintez L. Watkins.

Allyne’s choice to carry an illegal firearm that night led to involuntary manslaughter, carrying a concealed weapon and felony firearms charges against him.

Allyn’s lack of training combined with his lack of critical thinking skills led him to panic after the shooting. Instead of waiting for police, Allyn took his illegal gun, the same one used to kill Dequintez Watkins, and threw it in the Flint River. Rational, reasonable people do odd things when they are untrained and under pressure. Here, Allyne’s choice led to an additional felony charge of tampering with evidence.

The intent is clearly important here. Allyne never intended to kill Dequintez, yet he was grossly negligent, and discharging the firearm into the crowded bar apparently caused the death of Dequintez Watkins, hence the arrest and subsequent charges. Again, two lives lost in one incident and families and a business emotionally damaged and perhaps stigmatized beyond repair.  

Another senseless tragedy.

Two weeks ago, on 13 April 2020 at 4:30 in the morning, a 40-year-old mother of four Danielle Nicole Walker was shot and killed by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting. She wasn’t the intended target. She died in her house on Tebo Street near Lapeer Road in her home town of Flint, Michigan.

Cabin fever.

Chalking any of these incidents up to COVID19 or the cabin fever resulting from the quarantine order represents a quantum leap of logic. One had nothing to do with the other. No matter what was happening at the time, sooner or later each of these folks would have pulled a gun and fired it. Sooner or later we would have read of a similar tragedy with another life lost.

Bad choices are exacerbated when critical thinking skills are absent. Just add an illegal firearm, illegal drugs, or too much alcohol and you have a recipe for multiple fatalities.

This also isn’t a story about Flint, Michigan. I could have written about a litany of incidents in myriad American towns, Flint just happened to be relative to the origin story for this Lessons Learned.

While it seems impossible to get all the recidivists and illegal guns off the street, training is a viable, available, and much cheaper alternative. Training can change behavior.

Investing in teaching psychological de-escalation techniques and teaching folks to understand the consequences of their actions at the earliest opportunities in our churches and schools would likely prove successful in stemming the seemingly unending font of violence that plagues many mid to large-sized American cities.    

One direction.

Finally, I’ll leave you with what I see as the wrong direction

While scanning headlines during my break from editing, I came across an article about the San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott who ordered his officers to wear neutral face coverings to defuse a controversy that didn’t yet exist.

SFPD uniformed officers were given protective masks from their police union. The masks happened to be adorned with the “thin blue line” flag.

As a preliminary strike, Chief Scott said that while he personally considers the blue flag and stripe “a meaningful expression to honor fallen officers’ he worried that some people could perceive the symbol as “divisive and disrespectful.”

Chief, that’s called pandering. Pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Those people are protesters; folks who see a conspiracy of hate, death, and fear whenever they see the American flag, a police car, or law enforcement professional. They do not represent me or many of the other people who reside in San Francisco, California, or the rest of our great nation. Some of us still respect our military, first responders, ER nurses, dispatchers, and many other professions who work to keep us safe each day.

Spend your time on more worthwhile tasks, like training and enforcement.

Regarding the Chief’s ban; some online sources may have you believe that the term ‘thin blue line’ started in reference to the ‘thin red line’ of British troops that held off the charge of mounted Russian soldiers during the Crimean war. I was a copper for 30 years and I had never heard that explanation.

I remember first reading about the thin blue line a long time ago.

I first read that description in a tattered paperback while I was in a hotel room in Muskegon, Michigan during a search and rescue looking for Eugene Mounts. As I remember, it was in a book by Joseph Wambaugh written in 1972 called The New Centurions. One of the other SAR personnel had left it behind, and as a voracious reader, I welcomed his or her loss.

Wambaugh refers to the life of law enforcement professionals as the thin blue line between order and chaos. Those who live daily on the edge of chaos so we don’t have to. It all comes down to the representation of the color of the old police uniforms rather than some hidden agenda message regarding class inequality.

Training changes behavior.

  • Greg

Comments are closed