By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an on-going series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously and honorably make positive differences in their own lives and the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes reside among us and serves as quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward – and ours too.
Most days he just drinks. Hard liquor is his preference but he’ll take most anything – beer, wine, or garage-made moonshine. When he’s not wandering the streets of Dallas looking for any day job he can get or a kind stranger with a spare dollar, Charles “Chucky” Alexander stays in a tiny apartment provided by a charity known as The Bridge. No furniture, no luxuries, just four walls some heat and a bedroll. He lives mostly out of his backpack, and wonders how his seven-year-old daughter is doing in foster care. He thinks back to his days as a gang leader in L.A.’s ruthless, drug-dealing Crips gang, and knows he’s lucky to have made it to his 45th birthday. This past year Chucky was making some headway against his addictions, but his mother died unexpectedly sending the homeless man into yet another downward spiral of booze and despair.
Sometimes, just to talk to somebody, he makes his way to the homeless shelter at Park Avenue and Corsicana Street. That’s where Chucky found himself on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, enduring the relentless monotony and quiet desperation the greatest society on earth visits on its most vulnerable. Talking to another homeless person, Chucky watched an SUV screech to halt just feet from his location. Out sprang Sam Jackson, high on Phencyclidine (PCP), a drug so dangerous it has been shelved by its manufacturer and banned from use. PCP produces an incredible long-lasting high that renders some users almost impervious to pain. Hallucinating, Jackson wheeled and attacked Wendy Poole as she walked down the street, and then went for other homeless folks whose only crime was being in his path.
Ten year veteran Dallas police officer, Billy Taylor, responded to the scene within minutes to find Jackson threatening and beating indiscriminately Drawing his baton, he rushed towards the out-of-his-mind man to end the attack. Despite well placed blows, Jackson was unfazed and struck Taylor in the head stunning him. The officer, realizing what he was dealing with, retreated but took a severe beating in the process, dislocating fingers on his hand and suffering a concussion. Bridge security guard Andrea Thomas came to his aid, but was easily brushed away.
Thomas kept coming a second time but this time with an unexpected ally. Chucky, seeing the carnage, ran up behind Jackson placing him squarely in a bear hug. When the man didn’t stop struggling, Alexander lifted the man and slammed him to the pavement ending the assault just as two Dallas police cruisers, rolling Code 10-39, lurched to a stop. The whole scene was caught on video below.
Chucky admits there was a time when he wouldn’t have gotten involved. Like when he was “sellin’.” But with age came perspective, “I knew there was something I had to do. The officer had his baton out but it wasn’t doing any good. I mean, this guy was really PC’d out.”
“I think he’s a hero,” victimized bystander Wendy Poole said. Dallas Police Chief David Brown agreed. He presented a Citizens Certificate of Merit to Charles Alexander. Says the press release, “Due to Mr. Alexander’s bravery and quick actions, Samuel Jackson was taken into custody for assaulting a citizen and a Dallas Police officer.” The chief will honor Alexander for intervening “with little to no regard for his own safety.”
So here we have it. Chucky Alexander, homeless, unemployed, alcohol-addled, and the lowest of us in the minds of many, placed himself squarely between a madman and his victim. Unhesitantly, he came to the aid of a total stranger whose life depended on Chucky’s courage and sense of community. Perhaps before we judge so harshly based on what we see and what we have seen, we can stop to consider Chucky Alexander — a man with every reason to let the other guy do it or just get invisible when a symbol of the power structure that forgot about him is viciously attacked. But he didn’t. Maybe we can let ourselves believe that there’s merit to the old adage about there being some good in everyone that even the harshness of the world can’t grind down.
Chucky Alexander reminds us that the world is full of heroes-in-waiting, and, that as poet Jorge Luis Borges observed, “Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.”
Now, you could feel sorry for Chucky’s plight but after thinking about it, you might feel sorry for the rest of us — and envy Mr. Alexander’s moment. Chucky Alexander answered his moment; do any of us good, productive citizens really want to ask ourselves the same question?
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger