Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Time I Was Held Up At Gun Point : A Ridiculously Long True Story

To set this story up for you, let me first provide a bit of background. It was November 2001 and I had just begun working out of a very large church in Pennsylvania. By large, I mean the building was enormous (my friends and I temporarily used a scooter to get us from our office to the church office - it was much quicker) and was large - thousands of people type attendance. I had only been at the church since mid-September. I was there doing my second year of the program Master's Commission - an extremely intense ministry discipleship course for college age students. There were fourteen of us on the team and of those fourteen, three of us were doing our second year of the program so we had a bit more leadership opportunities than those in their first year. This also allowed us to have a couple of keys to the church - keys that first years didn't have. A key to one outside door near our classroom/office, a key to our classroom, and a key to our office inside of the classroom. Also around this time, cellphones weren't such the deal that they are now. Sure, people had them, but now it seems everyone has one. At this point in time, if you didn't have one, you weren't a weirdo. (I by the way, don't have a cell - I'm in the weirdo category.) To tell you one more thing about the building, picture our classroom and office at one end of the church - the sanctuary about 3/4 to the other end of the church, and the church offices all the way at the opposite end of our office.

The particular night we are talking about was a bit different for us. It was close to Thanksgiving and our church was participating with other churches in the community for a corporate Thanksgiving service at a theater downtown. The plan was, after that nightly service, we would all head home from the theater and come back to class the next day. Some of us had carpooled together so we headed back to the church to hop in our cars and head home. Well wouldn't you know, one of the guys - we'll call him J - had left his car keys and backpack in our classroom. Now normally this wouldn't be too big of a deal, but at this point, there were just a couple of us at the church - three of us to be exact. Why is that a big deal? Well, normally it wouldn't be - but there was a certain time that the alarm was set at the church. And I did not know the alarm code to turn it off should it have been set. J glanced at his watch - it read 8:50. We had ten minutes before the alarm would usually be set. We were in the clear.

I had been wearing a midwaist suede coat - and a back pack. That backpack was weighing me down so I dropped it on the pavement thinking that I'd scoop it up after letting J into the church. Our friend Aimee was waiting outside for us. This all should have taken mere moments.

But as I unlocked the outside door that I had a key to, and J and I walked inside of the church, we both heard "bee bup, bee bup". Dread ran over me. It was the alarm. Shoot! Panic started to set in as I'd been in this sort of situation before - but that's a story for another day. I started to run down the hall to our classroom. I knew we needed to get the alarm off asap before the police came. J was pretty nonchalant and assured me that we'd be able to call the director of our program, he'd tell us the code, and we'd be fine. Or so we thought. As I got into our office and tried to use the phone, I realized that the line was dead. The alarm had disabled all of the phone lines. Shoot! At this point the alarm was just screaming at us. It was no longer just a "bee bup, bee bup" but was now a full fledged siren - ear splitting.

J said that he was going to go out and try to use Aimee's phone to call someone to help us with the alarm. Thankfully she was one of the only people on our team with a phone. Here's the bad part though - she was on the last bit of battery life - and her car charger was not made for her phone. (Right Aimee? Correct me if I'm wrong.) Aimee came running into the church to try and call for help - J decided to wait outside incase the police came.

For whatever reason, whether we thought he would be in bed or if we were too afraid of his wrath, we didn't call our director. We instead called our media director, John. He was still at the theater helping to take down all of the sound equipment. We knew he had the code and because he was just about our age - we knew he wouldn't get too ruffled at our setting off the alarm. He told us the code, and as I entered it into the alarm box, nothing happened. Shoot! I entered it again. It wasn't working! The alarm wasn't going off. I tried one more time. And then remembered, after entering the numbers, I had to hit the ENTER button to enter the numbers. Bingo! The alarm silenced. Whew!

John informed us that the alarm company would probably call and that we would need to tell them the secret code so that the police wouldn't be dispatched to the church. He also told us to expect the night security from across the street to come over and check things out - as they did every night. John told me that the information for the alarm company was in his office in the media room - 3/4 of the church length away from our office. I asked John if my key would work in the media room door - he figured that it probably would. I was just thankful the alarm was off, so I felt sure he knew what he was talking about. We had a bit of a laugh and hung up the phone. He also had mentioned that if we were not able to get the number for the alarm company directly, we could also hit a certain number on the inter-church telephone system and reach them directly. Check.

Aimee and I set off for the media room to retreive the password and phone number for the alarm company. What a long walk. I think there were a few laughs along the way. We went up the stairs to the media room door. Now mind you, part the media room was located on the second floor of the sanctuary - or the balcony. I tried my key in the door. No such luck. It was the wrong key. Aimee and I went into the sanctuary where she suggested that she could climb out over the railing of the media room balcony and get the hidden key and get inside of John's office that way. We thought about it for a few seconds - but as I looked down onto the pews below, I knew we'd be in for it if Aimee happened to fall. Not to mention the world of hurt that she would be in. We decided to try and call the alarm company from the inter-church phone system. I tried dialing out at the nearest phone, but whether the phones were still disabled or the phones weren't programed with the alarm company number as John had thought - I'm not sure. Either way, the phone didn't work.

Just our luck! We decided to head back to our classroom/office to call John once more to let him know about our bad luck and then head home. And we did just that. John had a bit of a laugh with us, we hung up the phone and Aimee and I got ready to head home. She grabbed us a couple of York Peppermint Patties and I locked the office door. I opened up my patty, we giggled and walked out of the classroom. And that's when we saw him.

An officer was shining his flashlight into the gym doors that were located right across from our classroom. Hearing us, he turned out, pulled out his gun, cocked it and said "Put your hands in the air!! Drop what's in your hands!!" Onto the ground went the peppermint patties and Aimee's cellphone. "Up against the wall!! Spread your legs!" So up against the wall we went as the police officer patted us down. "Who are you?!" he barked. "We're Master's Commission students sir." I was thinking that this was the security guard from across the street. Yeah, dumb.

He continued to badger us with questions. Who were we? What were we doing here? Why was there a rock holding the door open? What?!

At this point, Aimee and I had assumed that Jason had been outside waiting for the police to show up. Well, he wasn't. He had left. And for whatever reason - perhaps incase he needed to get back into the church - J had put a rock in the door to prop it open. Remember, I was the only one with the key. Aimee and I didn't know about the rock so we were pretty stumped by that question. The police officer started grilling us about J. What color car did he drive? Who was he? He kept insisting that he saw someone speeding out of the driveway when he pulled into the parking lot. We had no idea about this and felt a little more than sure that J hadn't been speeding away from the church. That just sounded silly.

J drove a purple car. The police officer kept trying to trip us up about the color. "You said it was magenta". "No, it's purple. Like Barney." It was. The police officer ushered us outside and told us to put our hands on the hood of his car. So there we were - two young girls - hands on the hood of this officers car as he called in our names. It was a ridiculously long time that he sat in his car. Finally he BEEPED HIS HORN to get our attention. As if he couldn't get out of his car and talk to us. No. He beeped his darn horn and pointed at Aimee - "you, come here". Aimee went around to his door where he then proceeded to tell her that he didn't believe our story. (You know, the one where we were students at the church, that our friends keys were left in the church, and we were retreiving them when the alarm went off - that story). She politely told him that we were telling the truth. Then said to Aimee "Get her". Aimee said "Mandi, he needs to talk to you". I came around to the side of the car.

"Amanada Loomis, huh? Don't we have a warrent out for your arrest?" he asked. "No sir, that must be another Amanda Loomis." Not the first time we had been mistaken. But again, that's another story for another day.

"Go sit over there." He directed us to the door stoop. So we sat. At that point we were finally able to talk to each other as we watched the officer do whatever it was that he was doing. He grilled us about my backpack laying on the ground. And also about Aimee's car door being open. She hadn't shut it behind her after running into the church to give me her phone to call for help. I suppose it may have looked suspicious, but our story never wavered. Why would it?

The next thing we knew, a second police car came barreling into the parking lot. It was the canine unit. They told their big german shepard to bark as if to scare us. I think it only made us groan and roll our eyes. Seriously guys? The officer got out and took out his flashlight and shone it into our cars. He wrote down our liscence plate numbers and tried to look scary.  We weren't impressed. Again, the first officer kept trying to trip up our story.

Then, a third police car came speeding into the parking lot. This guy was driving like such a nut that he drove over a cement median type thing and POPPED HIS TIRE! If we didn't laugh at that point, I'm just not even sure what we did. Maybe we didn't laugh - but at this point we were irritated. I think about 45 minutes had passed since we first got to the church. And it was cold! We were right off the interstate where it was always windy - plus it was the end of November.

The second officer tried to trip up our story. Trying to confuse us. But we maintained our story completely. Finally they asked how we got into the church in the first place. I said "I have a key". Duh. He asked to see it and tried it in the door. By jove, it worked! I think the were looking a little like they had egg on their face. I suppose they were merely doing their job, but honestly, they were a bit overkill. Again he asked us to explain why we were at the church. We told him about John and the alarm code.

Finally he asked us to call "this John guy". I asked him if we could use his cellphone as Aimee's was dead. He sort of grunted, acted way too irritated, and gave it to us. We made the call, and John assured us that he would be right there. He spoke to the officer and vouched for our story. About ten or so minutes later, John showed up and at the same time so did the head of maintenance for the church. (The alarm company calls him if the alarm goes off - so he showed up to see what was going on.) Aimee and I were "released into John's custody".

Before leaving, the first officer said to us "You're lucky I've had so much experience. A younger guy would have shot you guys without even asking questions". Yeah right fella. Even back then I knew that was a load of bologna.

Immediatly after being "released", we went up to John's office and ate some cookies.

The End.

P.S. The church was fined over $500 for this incident.


Lucy Marie said...

That story is priceless. I can't believe you've waited so long to share it with us. I can't believe it really happened. "You're lucky I have so much experience, a younger guy would have shot you no questions asked". Bahaha!

Kimmy @ my beautifully blessed life said...

Wow! I cannot believe how much you had to ordeal in that one short night! That is so crazy. Thanks for sharing, it was entertaining to read, although I am sure you were less than thrilled living through it. :)

Stephanie said...

police are sooooo ridonkulous! seriously. are you soooooooo thankful you had an experienced officer?! whew!!!!
why was the church fined???

Della said...

Wow. Young guys with egos and guns? Bad combo!

Barb said...

Yikes ~ this is crazy...what a night for you! Still shaking my head here in PA! Have a good rest of the week!

Rebecca D said...

No way.. the CHURCH was fined?!?!?

Crazy... sounds like something that would happen to me...


Tonya said...

holy smokes girl!!! crazy!!!

Amber said...

Wow! I am sure this is funny now but I would have been mad at the time :)

I worked at our church one summer and the longest part of "orientation" was getting keys from the building director and having him explain that alarm "procedure" to me! And yes, he was afraid we would get fined because someone accidentally set off the alarm.


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