If you see someone, be it a friend or a stranger, who is being attacked would you come to their assistance or look the other way?
In 1985 an incident occurred that forced me to answer this question. My partner and I were going out on a Saturday night. We were planning to go to a Country & Western bar on Colfax Ave. in Denver called “Charlie’s”. As we drove up Broadway and past the SouthTowne Lumber Company (another bar) a man came running across the street in front of us as he was being chased by 3 men with baseball bats. My partner locked the brakes and we stopped. I opened the front door and slid over to the middle of the seat so the terrified man could get in.
His face was bloodied and his arm looked broken because it appeared a bone was trying to poke through the skin. As we drove him to Denver General Hospital he recounted what happened.
He said he walked out the front door of the bar when he was approached by 3 guys who were verbally abusive with name calling and threatening body movements. As he walked toward his car behind the building the men began to chase him. He was knocked down and beaten with the bats. He got to his feet and they allowed him to have a head start so they could have the fun of chasing him down again. This is when he ran out in front of our car. The bat-wielding men struck our car’s rear fender as we fled.
When we arrived at the Hospital Emergency Room there was a Policeman stationed there. While the victim was taken back and examined we spoke with the officer and told him what had happened. The officer’s reaction was predictable but shocking non the less.
The officer said we could not lodge a complaint because we had not been harmed. We tried to get him to come out to look at our car. He refused and said the damage could have been done anytime before any attack. He asked us why we wanted to stir up a can of worms by making wild accusations. He said our “friend” was getting the medical attention he needed and we should be happy he wasn’t more seriously injured. We told him we had never met the man before that night and even though we helped him he wasn’t our friend before this incident. He said it would be better if we just took our friend home and not try to make any trouble. I became very irritated and started demanding the officer call a supervisor to come settle the dispute. He asked me “Are you really SURE you want to do that?” At this point my partner pulled me back and we went outside where he calmed me down and reminded me we couldn’t win every battle and we had to choose which ones we fought wisely and obviously this officer was warning us this was one fight we couldn’t win.
I capitulated and went to wait in the car. Some time much later my partner and the injured man returned. We took him back to the bar and I drove his car home for him. He lived only a few blocks from where this all happened. His name was James and he was a very beautiful man. His face was lacerated from the pavement he had been pushed down on. His left arm was in a cast and his eyes were starting to swell and soon he would have both eyes blackened by bruises.
He disappeared out of our lives a few days later. He never reported the attack. No one was ever charged with the attack. The officer was never charged with dereliction of duty because I was too afraid to force the issue.