A drama played out on my driveway

On Sunday, I am spending a quiet afternoon at home, sorting through mountains of paperwork that accumulated over the last month and watching the news on TV when I hear a voice coming from my driveway. I don’t recognize the voice. But what he is saying scares me a little, “Please get out of the car” (or something of that nature – as the windows are closed and his voice is a little faint).
I peer out the den window and see a Fairfield police officer standing midway up the driveway, his patrol car parked at the end, and a bright yellow, “suped-up” car containing five guys closest to my garage. I run to the front door and open it slightly so I can hear what is being said but steering clear from the scene I’ve yet to figure out. I don’t mind the cold air nipping at my feet because I need to know what’s going on. We’ve had burglaries in my neighborhood and that’s all I’m thinking about right then – that these five guys were planning on breaking into my house.
The officer asks the driver to slowly get out of the car, show his hands and walk toward him. That’s when my eyes see the Humvee, adorned in camouflage, parked on the road behind the Fairfield patrol car and a National Guardsman, dressed in uniform, also camouflage, standing on the other side of yellow car, his eyes fixated on the passengers.
The police officer starts to question the driver, asks for identification and talks into his radio. Before long, two more Fairfield patrol cars come racing up and down my street, lights flashing. Now I’ve got three patrol cars with lights flashing, three police officers and two National Guardsmen (by this time, the driver of the Humvee has emerged from it and also stands, well, guard). I realize that all of these law enforcement officers are armed, by the way.
The driver is frisked and patted down by the first officer and is asked to sit down on my driveway. He is asked (politely, I might add) if the trunk of his car can be opened and searched as well as the rest of the car. The driver agrees. Now the passengers are asked to slowly get out of the car and sit on the other side of my driveway. Everyone is being questioned, but I sense there is a language barrier to some extent.
Suddenly, my quiet Sunday afternoon was turned into a scene from a police TV drama playing out on my driveway.
The first officer discovers that the driver has no license. And in the trunk were two, 5-gallon pails of gasoline wrapped in black plastic bags and one small, red gas container. The officers remove all the containers and place them on my driveway.I can smell the gas.
Next thing I hear is that the yellow car will be towed because the driver didn’t have a license and that the gasoline in the 5-gallon pails will be confiscated.
The first officer comes to my door to tell me what’s going on. The officer was showing the Guardsmen around Fairfield because he said they would be helping to patrol the town while our cops were occupied with other jobs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which still was keeping many neighborhoods dark. Apparently, the five young men, from Queens, N.Y., were in New Haven the night before at a party. They stayed over because they decided they shouldn’t drive home after partying. And while here, presumably, they decided to buy gasoline since we have it and New York and New Jersey doesn’t after Hurricane Sandy.
The officer tells me that he and the Guardsmen stopped when they saw the yellow car and one or more of the occupants rummaging in the trunk and acting suspicious when they spotted the officer, who also was concerned, as I was, that they were up to nothing good, like burglary.
The first officer and the Guardsmen leave, and the other two cops wait for the tow truck with the five guys from Queens. I can tell from smiles and body language among the seven that the conversation is pleasant. Tow truck arrives, car is pulled onto the bed and the gas containers are secured on the truck. The driver is allowed to keep the safe, red one (which I suspect only contained about 2 gallons).
The scene is about to break up. One of the remaining two officers comes to my front door to talk to me and thank me for allowing this incident to play out on my driveway. He said the young men were actually good kids. The officers leave and the rest of the group, tow truck included, move onto the street. Thirty minutes or so later, another car pulls up, the yellow car is taken off the truck bed and the five guys disperse into both cars and drive off. I’m not sure, but someone in the second car hopefully with a license drove the yellow one.
So in the end, the biggest offense was driving without a license. The biggest mistake was putting that valuable commodity of gasoline in unsecured pails and intending to drive back to Queens with it in the trunk of a car.
When you think about it, the officers saved the lives of those five guys from Queens and anyone else who would have been driving on the road at the same time.

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