As we all know, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd died at the hands of the police; launching a crescendo of rioting across our nation. Nearly a month later, unrest continues in many areas. A week after Floyd’s death, on June 1st, I was driving my big 18 wheeler, filled with tons of tools, from southern Arizona to a destination many states away.
While passing through Las Vegas just before 9 PM, I made a wrong turn and ended up on a ramp toward Los Angeles. Realizing my error, I quickly exited the freeway, hoping to hook a quick left and find the on-ramp leading back toward Salt Lake City. As I exited onto Martin Luther King Blvd. I realized traveling surface streets would be potentially dangerous with rioting happening throughout the country. Moreover, driving a tractor-trailer in unplanned areas is risky, given the height, length, and weight of the vehicle. Fortunately, I knew the area well enough to know the route I needed to take before I could reacquire I-15 North.
Then I noticed an on-ramp unfamiliar to me. I believe it is a fairly new ramp over I-15. Figuring it would loop me back to a northbound ramp, I jumped on and began a ride I quickly regretted. I placed a call to my wife, using Siri, and shared my dilemma. On occasion, I have her pull up a map and employ data available to her to assist in my decision-making.
The ramp took me over the freeway as expected, but looped me down onto Sammy Davis Jr. Drive. That route took me directly in front of the Fashion Show Shopping Mall and a red light. Looking to my right I saw a platoon of National Guard Troops directly below a giant Dick’s Sporting Goods sign; dressed in full military battle dress with several wicked-looking unfamiliar military vehicles at the ready. Uh Oh!
Looking to my left I saw a very long parking lot rapidly filling with cars and people. Trunks were open everywhere and people were gathering many items, but mostly signs with wording like, “Police are Pigs,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Antifa,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Kill the Cops.” The hair on the back of my head stood on end. What did I get myself into?
The light, thankfully, turned green and I began rolling away along the long parking lot to my left. I hit the next red light, one or two vehicles back. The parking lot was still to my left, and the crowd was walking to the crosswalk, across the street in front of me; moving to my right. Further up the road to the left were even more cars and pedestrians holding signs. From my vantage point high in the Freightliner’s cab, the view reminded me of ants; all heading toward the same destination.
Looking to my right I saw dozens of serious-looking Las Vegas Police Department officers and their vehicles. They were blocking the way to the shopping mall. I remember thinking, “If they are protesting Floyd’s murder, why aren’t they in front of the police department, city hall, or a courthouse?” I figured the evening would end up being another one of those nocturnal, smashed glass, shopping sprees at the Apple Store, Neiman Marcus, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, and other stores located in that mall.
Most of the pedestrians appeared to be very young. Teens to early twenties. Most were white. Male and female alike.
While I was waiting for the light to turn green, my distressed wife emphatically said, “Why aren’t you on the freeway yet? Get out of there!”
We were both thinking about Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was pulled from his truck and savagely beaten during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. His assailants hit, kicked, and choked Denny. They also hit him with a cinder block and a claw hammer. Tracey and I have been to the site of Denny’s attack, in southcentral L.A., at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. We’re both very familiar with that sad chapter in American history and feared the same could happen to me.
Fortunately, the mob was still gathering and not yet in riot mode. A few hours later it distressed me to discover it did get out of control and a police officer was shot in the back of the head. The officer is paralyzed from the neck down, on a ventilator, and unable to speak.
Yes, I dodged a bullet, but LVPD Officer Shay Mikalonis didn’t. My heart breaks for Shay and his family. My heart breaks for our nation.
Steve Fowler is an author, long haul truck driver, blogger, safety and security professional, biographer, and professional ghostwriter. Steve is the author of “SPY GAMES: Inside the Murky World of Corporate Espionage.” He collaborated with Dr. Harry L. Green, retired physician and former publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine in the development of a weight maintenance/diet plan called, “THE 1 SYSTEM, A Lifestyle Diet that Really Works.” His Author Page, printed books, audiobooks, and Kindle Editions can be found on Amazon.com and Audible.com. Fowler has also written about a real American Hero Chance Phelps. Steve Fowler’s widely acclaimed piece “I Killed a Little Boy” was written in response to the growing distracted driving epidemic. Steve has written a myriad of business-related articles. Steve and his wife, Tracey, reside in Oro Valley, Arizona.
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