Need ride from the bar? Don't call 911 but watch for zombies
If ever a cautionary tale should emerge to shine some sobering light on what too much alcohol can make a person do, the local court system was the place for it this week.
For not just one, but two extremely strange-but-true local cases captured the local courtroom spotlight the past few days.
Take, for example, a May 4 public intoxication case in which a 50-year-old Owen County man thought a good way to get a ride home after a night of drinking at a Cloverdale bar would be to inexplicably call 911.
Or take the 19-year-old DePauw University student so intoxicated he thought he'd been bitten by zombies and stalked by "walkers" when he was found wandering the Peeler Art Center about 1:15 a.m. Saturday.
First, let's dial up the 911 case. While there's no actual recording of it, we can presume the conversation went something like this ...
Operator: 911, what's your emergency?
Caller: I need a ride home.
Operator: Where are you calling from, sir?
Caller: A bar, the Ye Olde Inn.
Operator: And what did you need?
Caller: I'm way too drunk to walk. I need a ride home from the bar.
Operator: Sir, 911 is for emergencies only. You need to call someone else for a ride.
But instead of finding a legitimate ride home, the Poland area resident started wobbling northbound in the southbound lane of U.S. 231, about 3:45 a.m. last Saturday.
That's when Indiana State Trooper Jonathan M. Cumbie came upon the staggering suspect.
"To avoid striking the man, I had to move into the northbound lane of U.S. 231," Cumbie stated in the probable cause affidavit filed in the case.
"Before I drove past him," Cumbie continued, "he had called 911 and asked the dispatcher for a ride to his house."
Apparently that was the second time that night the man had called 911 for a ride. The first time, deputies responded to Cloverdale and admonished him that 911 was only for emergencies and certainly not for rides home. They advised him to phone a friend or family member to get picked up.
But that didn't happen and he apparently continued drinking until he was intoxicated enough to register .202 percent BAC on the portable testing device Trooper Cumbie used at the scene.
"You didn't have anyone who could give you a ride home?" a seemingly incredulous Deputy Prosecutor James Hanner asked in court. "Of course, you were calling at 3:45 in the morning."
Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges seemed equally astounded and amused by the circumstance.
"I've been doing this for 30 years," he said, referring to a career that's spanned time as a state trooper, a lawyer and now a judge, "and I can't remember anyone ever calling 911 to get a ride when they were drunk."
He shot the suspect a look of utter disbelief from the bench.
"I was inebriated, yes," the suspect said in response to the judge's "drunk" comment, deliberately enunciating each syllable of the word "inebriated," chuckling to himself a bit in the process.
Admitting guilt to a public intoxication charge, the Owen County man (who has no prior offenses in Putnam County) was given a year's probation -- during which time he's ordered to stay out of bars and refrain from consuming intoxicating beverages -- and released for time served in the case.
Although Putnam County Jail records initially had him held on an additional count of misusing the 911 system, that was not officially charged when the case went to court.
"Please understand," a still-smiling Judge Bridges said in passing sentence, "I'm not laughing at you, I was laughing with you.
"I've just never seen anyone call 911 for a ride before when they were drunk," the judge added, shaking his head as he prepared for the next case.
The dust on that case had barely settled when another strange one took center stage Wednesday.
"We've already topped that," the venerable Hanner smiled in response to a query about the drunken 911 case.
"Zombies," he offered, nodding his head slowly as he disappeared into the courthouse elevator.
Yes, a Wednesday afternoon case, again fueled by excessive alcohol consumption, proved to be quite another courtroom head scratcher.
The teenager, charged with being a minor in consumption of alcohol, is getting a pretrial diversion, commonplace for most first-time offenders caught up in "college shenanigans," as Judge Bridges phrased it.
The incident report on record in the Prosecutor's Office reads like a TV script from "The Walking Dead," a popular cable series focusing on a post-apocalyptic world dominated by flesh-eating "walkers" and zombies.
When DePauw Police found the suspect, he was wearing a black and gold bicycle helmet with dirty, torn clothes and one shoe.
He immediately asked officers to check his shoulders to see if he'd been bitten by -- wait for it -- zombies. After all, the zombies will get you if you don't watch out.
The incident report further notes that suspect "didn't think he had been bitten but didn't want to infect anyone." And should he "turn," he urged police to "shoot him in the head" the prescribed antidote apparently for warding off future zombie ways.
Then, when police asked him for the name of a sober friend, the teen replied, "they're all dead" and began ranting about "walkers" roaming outside and ready to overrun the building.
That's when authorities realized the suspect was fantasizing about the plot of the TV show "The Walking Dead" and decided to take him into custody for his own safety.
But the fun was only starting as the suspect then became even more frightened at the prospect of going out to the police car for fear of the aforementioned walkers.
Told he was being taken to the hospital for examination (and a blood-alcohol test that determined his BAC as .273 percent with no sign of any drug use), he resisted being removed from the car because he had "seen hospitals overrun by walkers."
The student then told officers they needed to give him some kind of weapon so he could fight "them."
After initially resisting a return to the patrol car for a trip to the jail, the suspect reportedly calmed down once at PCJ and ceased any chatter about "walkers" and zombies.
In court Wednesday he was calm and normal, and as the Superior Court staff noted, "sufficiently embarrassed" by his actions.
Leave it to Hanner to sum up the week that was.
Offering up what's become a familiar courtroom refrain, the veteran lawyer assured, "You can't make this stuff up."