I got mugged yesterday, on the doorstep of a friend’s home in a perfectly lovely area of Brooklyn.
I was walking up the steps to ring their doorbell when someone came up behind me, grabbed my wrist and demanded my iPhone.
You never know how you will react under such circumstances. I felt like I was having an out of body experience.
It had just stopped raining and nobody was out on the usually active street.
He looked like a nice kid, and was not someone I would have felt threatened by.
He simply grabbed the hand that held my phone very firmly, and said “give it to me.”
My first reaction was to pull it back from him. We tussled for a few seconds, while he kept repeating his request. There was not an intense struggle, but something finally clicked that I was trapped on the stoop, and this could go either way; he could tire of fighting with me or get scared off by a neighbor. He could also have pulled out a weapon or thrown me down the stairs. The fear of the unknown made me come to my senses. Although my phone is my lifeline, it was in fact, just a phone. I finally handed it to him and said, “Just take it and run.” He took off down the street, and I frantically rang the doorbell until someone came to let me in.
In those few short seconds he was long gone.
The police came and had me drive around in the police van looking for the perpetrator. Although I looked him in the eye, I was too shaken to feel like I could give a good description. We rode around Fort Greene, looking at everyone suspiciously. The police would detain someone that vaguely fit the description, and we would drive up and try to identify him. Of course, it was never the right person.
I started to feel sorry for him, and all the others that were wrongly detained. Yeah, he stole my phone, but he didn’t hurt me or take my wallet. Here I was, cruising around town with 3 police officers, stopping every young black man who fit the vague description of my thief. It started to feel racist, and futile at the same time.
We went back to the police station to file a report, and look at photos of people in the correct demographic. It became apparent to me that it would be better to let the guilty party go free, than to potentially place blame on an innocent person.
After a long wait, my friends brought me home.
I am grateful that I was not harmed, and that in the end, it was just a phone. I did not lose my money, keys or credit cards.
I keep wondering what was going through his head. I must have been an easy mark. I was in a not so familiar neighborhood, and was walking slowly with my phone in my hand. He had probably followed me, when he saw me stop to send a text. He was surprisingly gentle and polite, given the circumstances. He did not speak rudely to me, toss around obscenities, or threaten me in any way. He didn’t get any rougher than he needed to in order to get what he wanted. He was well groomed and just a teenager. What caused him to do something like this? Why was he so brazen as to walk right up the steps to someone’s front door like that? Was it really worth the potential consequences?
I am sure I will never know.