This is a true story – about 6 years ago.
It was early August – a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, 4:30 pm. Cheryl and I were cleaning peaches for canning. We were at the kitchen sink listening to the Eagles, the Desperado album. I looked out the kitchen window and a rabbit was stirring around one of our garden beds. I immediately dropped my knife in the sink and grabbed my Crossman pellet gun (shoots 1,000 ft. per second; has a scope; total black schematic; looks just like a sniper riffle).
I went out after it to end its days foraging our garden (BTY, We live in a house that the church owns and is on church property and is across from a public school, yet, it’s still private property within city limits). I went around the church on the other side because I spooked it and it took off. I tried to corner it – too far away – I shot and missed, and went back to the sink to finish up the peaches.
About 15 minutes later I saw a police officer coming up the lawn in the back and hunkered down behind one of our pine trees. He had his weapon aimed at the house. Our windows were open and he said, “Mr Truman, come out of the house with your hands in the air.” I went to the largest window in the kitchen, hands out, and said, “Officer, why are you aiming your weapon at me?” He repeated his order. In my mind I knew that this is because of the attempt to kill that rabbit. But what I could not understand is why any of my neighbors would call the police – we’ve all lived here for many years together, are good friends, and they love that I am a hunter that keeps our gardens safe from critters.
I exited the front door to the house with my hands in the air. All I had on was cut off jean shorts, no shirt, no shoes. When I stood on the porch I looked around and quickly and counted about 20 officers with their weapons drawn. I looked over in the school playground across the street and saw two ATF snipers with rifles. On my left flank, two officers were within 20 ft. One of them said, “Mr. Truman, walk to the center of the yard.” I thought to myself, “Ivan, they will kill you if you do not obey perfectly, no sudden movements and keep your mouth shut.” His next order, “Get on your face and spread your arms and legs out.” Next order, “Put your hands behind your back.” I heard the click of handcuffs. I couldn’t believe it – “I’m being cuffed for trying to kill a rabbit with a pellet gun – good grief!”
He then ordered me to stand up. He said, “Mr. Truman, you are not under arrest. You are being detained for your safety.” I knew what that meant. They were there to kill me. Having me cuffed and in the squad car was my life. After about 15 min., and after officers had searched my home (I thought for sure I was going to jail once they find my real weapons), several city, county, state, and ATF squad cars began packing up and taking off silently. I was taken from the car to my front porch, still cuffed. Every one of my neighbors, those driving by, were all looking at me – pastor of Grace Community Church cuffed on his own front porch – aauuugghhh!!!!
That’s when the first officer who ordered me out of my house came up to me holding my pellet gun, and very visibly upset, raised his voice and said, “Is this yours?” Yes. “Look at it – do you see this?” Yes. “Do you not realize what this looks like when you’re seen running around with it?” Yes – it looks like a sniper rifle but I bought that at Dick’s – it’s a pellet gun, I said. He said, “I’m going to write you up for firing a weapon within city limits.” I responded, “That’s not a weapon according to your own definition – and it is not illegal to shoot a pellet gun within city limits. Besides, you can’t prove that I fired it – no one can – it’s a pellet gun and it does not leave any evidence that it was fired.”
Well that did it. Now he was really furious. I can understand – they got some kind of intel that they believed was a very serious threat to the community. He stormed off. The officer who ordered me to get on the ground came up and took the handcuffs off. He said, “Your complete obedience saved your life today.” That really shook me. I responded that none of my neighbors would have called 911 – and then, I looked across the other street, across Rt. 126 and I saw a man who does not like me because I confronted him several years ago for attempting to sell pot to one of the young men in our church. Instinctively, I said to the officer and pointing to that man, “I bet it is ______ who called you – wasn’t it?” Because I so quickly shot off that accusation, the officer did a no no. He shook his head in agreement – and then caught himself, embarrassed that he just ratted out the 911 caller.
Found out days later that my pot-selling neighbor called 911 to just get me in trouble (I have my resources!!). I also found out that the reason why the Police showed up silently in such force is because the day before there was a break-in and weapons were stolen not to far away, and that an eyewitness reported that the thief was holding up in our town. They thought they had him.
The furious officer walked up to the one that took the cuffs off and handed him the citation and then stomped off. I knew that if I’m cited for firing a weapon within city limits that I was going to lose my real weapons, and barred from having a hunting license for life. I was going to fight this. The officer in front of me read the citation: “Mr. Truman, you are being cited for disorderly conduct.” I gasped – “you’ve got to be kidding.” He gave me the citation and instructions for appearing in court.
28 days later I appeared in a public courtroom along with about 7 other cases to be heard. I did my homework – I was completely within the law – and I was there to defend myself. The city’s attorney called my name and said, “You are cited for disorderly conduct. How do you plead, liable, or not liable?” I responded with a question, “What will happen if I plead, not liable?” He said, “Then this proceeding will be suspended. I will defend City of Yorkville and you will defend yourself.” At that moment, looking into his eyes and his facial expression that only a very confident attorney could give, almost daring me to defend myself, I knew that I was going to lose – and then he will impose the maximum fine. So, I reluctantly swallowed and said, “Liable.”
As soon as I said that I felt sick, angry, disgusted, and dirty. I wanted to punch him for forcing me to admit guilt when I wasn’t. He then said, “Mr. Truman, I know what happened and that you were on private property and broke no laws. Thank you for your plea. See the secretary on your way out – write a check for $25 to “City of Yorkville”. You are dismissed.” I knew what happened: the city that I live in just saved face for nearly killing a man who was innocent. I do not blame the officers – they did their job according to the law and I respect them.
I got in my car and sat there . . . thinking . . . angry . . . disgusted that I was treated this way, and then the Lord gave a gift to me. “Ivan, now you know a little what it was like for me to hang innocently on the cross for you – and offer up my plea for you: Liable for your sins – and it cost a whole lot more than a little embarrassment, inconvenience, governmental overreach, and a $25 fine to be found guilty for your sins – I gave my life on a violent cross so that you could go free.”
To this day, I thank God for the whole experience of nearly being killed. Whenever I think that I’m getting an unjust treatment in this life, I remember that day and look to the cross, and thank my sweet Savior for hanging there, liable for me.