Guest Column

White male, white SUV

By Laurie Zwemer
Posted 6/17/21

Tell me that did not happen. That’s a really bad joke,” I ruptured as my brother spoke.

My brother, Gary, is a quiet, keep-to-himself guy, a good man. He is also the most …

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White male, white SUV

Posted

Tell me that did not happen. That’s a really bad joke,” I ruptured as my brother spoke.

My brother, Gary, is a quiet, keep-to-himself guy, a good man. He is also the most generous  person I know. He gives and gives and gives to family, to friends, to his community and to  countless, often unnamed strangers. He has an enormous heart but has a really hard time  accepting gifts.

Gary is the kind of guy that you want only good things to happen to him. Unfortunately, even bad things happen to good people. Regrettably, we cannot control the choices others make or the domino effect of their consequences. Such was the case a few weeks back, though for Gary, it seems like just a minute ago. 

My brother had not trekked to Billings for a month, so on a Friday morning he thought he would drive to Costco. When he drove across the bridge at Laurel, he saw a black Fish and Game pickup spin a swift U-turn and slip in behind him.  

As he turned onto the interstate towards Billings, the black pickup kept following him. It raced up to a few feet from his rear bumper, then backed away, only to return. My cautious brother drove about 5 miles, always watching his rearview mirror. Then he noticed a parade of red flashing lights about a mile behind him and could see they were closing in fast. So, he  pulled off to the side of the road and thought there must be a bad wreck ahead. 

Instantly, Gary was surrounded by the black pickup and four highway patrol vehicles.  Bewildered, he looked out his rearview mirror and saw four officers, arms extended with both hands on their pistols and fingers on the triggers, and one rifle with a scope pointed at him. Staring, he sat motionless in shock. The officers yelled, but with all the vehicles whizzing by on the interstate, he could not hear them. So, my quivering brother rolled down the window to the blast of, “Get out of the vehicle!”

With guns pointed at him, he did. 

“Get your hands on your head and walk backwards towards us.” 

As Gary stepped closer, all five barrels aimed within feet. One guy rushed from behind and risked him. Then an officer told him to keep his hands on his head and get on his knees. My brother is not a young man. With adrenaline rushing, he did as he was told.  

“Put your hands behind your back.” Then they handcuffed him as he helplessly knelt.

They led him to one of the patrol cars handcuffed and planted him in the back seat. An  officer got in the car and declared, “You know why we stopped you!”  

“I have no idea,” Gary replied.  

“Where is the gun?” 

“I do not have a gun.”

They told my brother that a white Chevy SUV (Gary was driving a white Chevy SUV), coming  from the same direction, got into a road rage and the driver shot three times at another vehicle. 

Gary sat in the patrol car processing the newsflash for a terrifying 30 minutes. All the while an officer walked back and forth to the door asking more questions. Gary told them they could  search his vehicle without a search warrant. They finally did. 

After 45 more agonizing minutes, the patrol officers realized it was not my brother who was crazed. Finally, a young officer came to the window and explained that when he opens the door, my brother could get out and he would remove the handcuffs. 

“You are free to leave,” were their only words. No apology for this innocent man.

Before Gary made it back to his car, he heard the Fish and Game officer say that he did not think they searched his vehicle enough.

A highway patrol officer spoke, “We did. It is not this guy.” 

The Fish and Game warden must have picked up the event on his radio and called for  backup. Meanwhile, details radioed out that the suspect was a White male driving a white SUV of unknown make, model or year. How many dozens of vehicles would have fit that description?

Not long afterwards it became known that the suspect was a White male with white hair and a beard driving an older SUV in the opposite direction. My brother has brown hair and no beard. The Carbon County Sheriff’s department has yet to find the White male who triggered the events of that day. 

I am sure my gentle brother will have scars for a long time. His wrists were red, bruised and sore from the handcuffs. It won’t take much to trigger the memory of such a haunting event. Heart racing, he wakes up from nightmares when the trigger is pulled. He jokingly says, “I always wake up, so I guess I am still alive!”  

Even though bad things happen to good people, I wish they would not. At the same time, I  am so thankful my brother responded calmly through his quaking body. I am pretty sure I would have panicked and done something dreadfully stupid.

Gary’s comeback is that cave living looks pretty good. He also reminds me that we need a bad day to appreciate what a good day is. Then he tells me, “Have a good day. I love you.”

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