Crockett had a relatively legitimate complaint, but he went about seeking relief for his issue in the entirely wrong way. First, he began by cussing out the two C/Os who refused to let him out of his cell to use the phone—never a good opening tactic.
It was Crockett’s scheduled day for a phone call—one of three allotted per week—but his appointed time had been on first shift. He had requested that the first-shift officer leave a notation for his second-shift replacement to allow Crockett to use the phone on second shift, since he had been unable to get through to anyone. While this practice is perfectly acceptable, it is also understood that the final decision is the second shift officer’s to make. In this instance, the C/O flatly refused Crockett’s request. Specifically, he laughed at Crockett and informed him that he was “fucked out of luck.” The C/O’s coworker joined in the laughter. Not precisely professional of them, or respectful for that matter. C/Os sometimes revel in their tiny piece of power and abuse their authority. It’s not uncommon. Crockett didn’t handle this well.
After returning the officer’s curse words, Crockett upped the ante from his side of the cell door by verbally threatening both of the C/Os with a violent assault. The two C/Os continued to laugh at him as if he were some sort of ineffectual caged beast, which in essence he was. However, he would not be in his cell forever. Crockett was not a tiny guy. He had been locked up almost fifteen years and had a body built by the weight pile. He was also no stranger to violence; he had been transferred from his previous facility for fighting. The two C/Os didn’t seem to think, or care, about any of that.
Having gotten no rhythm with his threats, Crockett engaged in an ill-conceived and hasty act of desperation by demanding to see a white shirt. By doing this, he escalated the situation. As it stood, before getting a lieutenant involved, his cussing and threats could just be chalked up to angry frustration—merely blowing off steam—and ignored. But the presence of a lieutenant would almost certainly end in Crockett getting walked to Seg. The two officers’ unprofessional conduct and goading of Crockett wouldn’t matter. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even be mentioned. Crockett had threatened a correctional officer; whether provoked or not, it’s not an infraction taken lightly by the powers that be. Foolishly, Crockett thought he could reason with the loo and make him see his side of the story. Seg was populated with similarly foolish individuals.
Lieutenant Kardinsky carried himself with the bearing of a fighter entering the fray. This may be why it was rumored that he competed in mixed martial arts competitions, and while none of us inmates had any way to know whether there was any truth to those rumors, most of us believed it. Nothing about him left the impression that he had any patience for people’s bullshit.
“What’s your problem?” he said as he walked straight up to Crockett’s door, after conferring confidentially with the two C/Os who had so offended the offender.
Crockett did his little song and dance, explaining the phone issue and how the C/Os had laughed and cussed at him, which had only provoked him.
Lieutenant Kardinsky waited for him to stop talking, though I’m not convinced he actually listened to a word Crockett said. “So you threatened my officers?” he asked Crockett, who had just admitted to having yelled and cussed at them.
Crockett began his explanation over again, beginning with the fact that he couldn’t reach anyone at his scheduled phone call time.
The loo cut him off.
“I don’t give a shit,” he declared derisively. “You threatened my officers,” he repeated, this time as a statement of fact, as he unlocked the chuck hole door and let it slam open on its hinges, like a tiny drawbridge. “Turn around and cuff up, you’re going to Seg.”
Crockett’s cellie was at work in the chow hall, so at least they wouldn’t have to deal with the logistics of removing the cellie first, as per protocol. But that was a dim and distant blessing. As for Lieutenant Kardinsky’s order for him to submit to being handcuffed, Crockett didn’t handle that very well either.
“What the fuck!!?” he boomed in the lieutenant’s face, forcing him to take a couple half steps back from the cell door. “This is some bullshit!”
“What did you think was going to happen?” Lieutenant Kardinsky asked incredulously, which also happened to be the most reasonable and logical thing I’d heard him say.
“But they laughed at me! I want my phone call!” Crockett whined like a petulant, cranky child fighting against the inevitability of naptime. In an instant, he turned livid. “You bitch!” he bellowed through the door’s perforated steel grate. “All of you!” he continued, “You’re all a bunch of pussy little bitches! Hiding behind this door, behind your badges. If I ever caught you in the world, and you didn’t have that shirt on to protect you, I’d beat your little bitch ass!”
Crockett was unraveling; he had become unhinged. Either that, or he had pretty much resigned himself to the fact that Seg was a foregone conclusion and had decided to take the scorched earth approach and sizzle any diplomatic-type bridge he might have been able to cross. Lieutenant Kardinsky slammed the chuck hole closed and walked off to confer with the two C/Os who were standing witness to it all.
After a brief exchange, the lieutenant removed his radio from his belt and handed it to one of the C/Os, followed by his belt, which carried his handcuffs, keys, and canister of pepper spray. Then he took off his white shirt. Beneath it, he wore a tight black T-shirt that was so form-fitting it appeared to have been spray-painted on him. It accentuated his muscular, ropy physique impressively and served to intimidate. At least, I know I felt intimidated—not to mention bewildered by what was unfolding. I felt fearful for Crockett’s immediate well-being.
Having divested himself of all mantles of authority, Kardinsky returned to Crockett’s cell. “I don’t have my shirt on anymore. What do you want to do?”
Crockett was initially dumbstruck, but quickly regained his bravado. “Bullshit! You ain’t gonna do nothing. Your buddies will help you if you open this door.”
“No,” Kardinsky countered quickly, “They’re not going to do anything. I come in and we see what happens. If you beat me, you beat me. If I beat you, it ends there: no Seg time, no grievances. Deal?”
Crockett let out a harsh, hollow laugh of disbelief.
“Bullshit,” he pronounced once more.
“Roll the door,” was all Kardinsky said. One of the C/Os gestured to the bubble officer, and the electronic lock buzzed open. Kardinsky slipped inside the cell and closed the door behind him, locking them both inside.
There was a short, muted conversation that was unintelligible, then nothing but the sounds of violence for several minutes. After a brief lull, Kardinsky appeared at the door and banged his fist against it three times. “Open the door!” he yelled to his officers, who duly came running. Kardinsky didn’t sound frantic, or even particularly winded.
He dragged Crockett out by his armpits and dropped him in a heap in the middle of the gallery. Crockett wasn’t unconscious, but was clearly dazed and bloodied; Kardinsky didn’t seem to have a scratch on him. Kardinsky snatched his handcuffs from his belt, which was slung over one of the C/Os shoulders. With his heavy black boot, he connected viciously with Crockett’s defenseless ribs, which sent his supine body rolling onto its side. Using his boot, Kardinsky rolled him over the rest of the way onto his stomach. Once Crockett was positioned to Kardinsky’s satisfaction, he pulled Crockett’s arms behind his back one at a time and clicked the handcuffs tightly to his wrists. Crockett slurred some curse that sounded something like “sunufabisch” and Kardinsky stomped his spine as if he were dispatching a spider; Crockett howled in understandable agony.
Kardinsky took his time putting himself back together. He put on his white shirt, buttoned it, tucked it in, then returned his belt to his waist before checking to ensure everything was where it should be. Lastly he replaced his radio, which he retrieved from the C/O he had entrusted it to. Throughout all this, Crockett lay mostly still and quiet, except for the odd, errant moan or grunt of discomfort. Lieutenant Kardinsky mumbled something to his subordinates before heading toward the door of the deck, where he stood watch and waited.
The two C/Os had a silent conference of head nods and gesticulation before circling Crockett’s body. One of them grabbed the handcuffs and pulled so that Crockett was yanked back and his head and torso forced off of the floor. It was as if he were being folded in half backwards. He grimaced and yelled in pain. When the other C/O took his canister of pepper spray and unloaded a blast right into Crockett’s defenseless face from a foot away, Crockett really began to holler. The two C/Os scurried off, coughing, and exited the deck along with Lieutenant Kardinsky. Crockett was left to scream and writhe in burning agony for nearly half an hour before finally being hauled away to Seg. He only managed to stumble blindly and uselessly around the deck, seeking some type of aid, care, or comfort, but he found none. His whimpering screams of pain and helpless pleadings for assistance are something I’ll never be able to forget.