My Run in With a Real Life Jack Bauer Wanna-be

Several months ago there was a story about a man impersonating a federal agent in a small Missouri town. The man was even featured on 60 Minutes because of the stunt he pulled because he was able to convince city officials and the police department to go along with his scam.

I may have mentioned before that I have a history with this man named William “Bill” Jakob. I knew he was an idiot; but this article in the RFT (a local St. Louis weekly) lets me know just how big of an idiot he is.

Not only did he impersonate a fed in the small Missouri Town of Gerald; but he got into the military under false pretences, wore medals he did not earn, got hired and fired from several police departments, and ran any number of schemes over the years involving law-enforcement and the military.

I ran into Bill when he was a cop in the all-black northern St. Louis suburb of Kinloch which at the time was one of the most dangerous and crime-ridden places in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

It was unfortunate for me that I had just split with my eldest daughters mother and Bill took a romantic interest in her (for the record she was underage at the time). Meanwhile Bill was gaining quite a reputation in the tight-knit community for beating people up and acting like an all around jerk.

One night on the parking lot of the old Arab-owned Tomboy grocery store (which housed a “craphouse” in the back) a friend of mine, the late Corian Hardy aka/ Snap saw Bill who had assaulted him a few days earlier. Snap pulled out an automatic weapon and tried to spray the car Bill was driving; but the gun jammed. That was the kind of anger that was out there towards him.

Complaints were mounting about Bill until one day I finally had my run in with him. I was leaving the apartment of my daughter’s mother in the Boaz when Bill ran up the steps. Knowing his reputation I was not in the mood to just sit there and let him whoop my ass so we had a brief scuffle and I then ran. Moments later I ran up the fence which divided Kinloch from Ferguson and got caught up in the fence which cut my hand and chest. When I fell to the other side Bill and a few fellow officers was waiting for me.

They roughed me up a little bit and then took me to the Kinloch police station. They took me back to a holding cell where I was left bleeding and while there an elder officer came to me and requested that I file a complaint because, in his words, “ we are trying to get rid of his ass anyway he is causing too many problems”.

The complaint was filed and within a week he was off of the force. I had it in my mind to sue him but never did and I basically forgot about him until this whole mess came up. The story in the RFT by Kristen Hinman is a worthwhile read; but I am guessing there is so much more that could have been written.

A Story of the Stages to Being Homeless

I always say that cab drivers are like high school students in that drivers form cliques and some groups don’t like other groups. Personally, I don’t really fit into any of the main groups (immigrants, angry white men who listen to Michael Savage and flirt with right-wing extremism, surly bald-headed black guys, old-timers, etc); but here in St. Louis there is a core group of drivers that I would say I am friendly with.

Perhaps none of these drivers have I spent more time talking to and sharing thoughts with more than a guy I will just call B.

B is an interesting character. He was born and raised in the Bronx and worked in factories in New York until he graduated from City College with a degree in education and English (he would later get a graduate degree in both fields).

From there B would become a teacher in the New York City Public Schools and he married a Dominican woman who taught him to speak fluent Spanish. The couple had two or three children, I am not really sure, but somehow ended up in a divorce.

Around this time B’s sister was transferred to a job in St. Louis and B decided to give the city a try to get away from the problems with his ex. He first worked as a teacher in St. Louis; but because of the child support and alimony cuts in his check he deiced to go into the cash economy and become a cabbie.

This is when we met and we hit it off. B is a big reader and always has something around to read and we would often trade magazines and books to read in our cabs. Both of us also listen to a lot of NPR and BBC and we would often talk to each other about stuff we had heard on the radio.

When we first met B had a nicely furnished apartment in North St. Louis County, a cell phone, and was well-dressed and well-groomed. He was optimistic about life and planned to save up money and either move back to New York or out to the West Coast.

I left St. Louis for New York and when I came back B no longer lived in the apartment but was in a boarding house in North County. Some people may look down on boarding houses, not me, I have lived in them before and think they fit the needs of a lot of single males pretty well, so I didn’t look down on this move.

During this time B was writing a screenplay and I was kind of helping him with it (although he never took any of my advice) and was talking o a Jewish woman in California. The woman is a lawyer and seemed to like B from what I could tell. He also had a woman in Louisville he was talking to and I think his plan was to move to one of these places and live with the woman.

The woman in LA cut ties with B and he focused on the woman in Louisville. He bought her gifts and flew down there to spend time with her. She decided to break it off with him when he visited and he was pretty much crushed and even asked her to reimburse him for all the gifts he bought.

A little while later I left to DC for about a year to work with Imam Mahdi Bray. When I come back I see B again and this time he does not have an apartment and is not renting a room. Instead he was living in his cab and when he had a good day he rented a motel room by the airport.

B was no longer writing and his grooming was slipping; but he was very enthralled by the Presidential election and told me he would stay in the motel all day watching MSNBC and CNN coverage and would not even go to work. He seemed to stop living his life and to be living through the life of Barack Obama.

Now he told me that he planned to move back to New York or to Portland, OR after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July. That was before it came time for his license to get renewed (around $250) and he did not have the money.

He lost his job a couple of weeks ago and knowing that he was sleeping in his cab and had now lost that I wondered what happened to him. On Saturday night I found out. As I was driving up to the valet of the upscale Chase Park Plaza Hotel I heard someone yelling my name from the bus stop on the corner.

When I looked over it was B who ran towards my cab sweating and looking a mess saying “yo Umar I haven’t eaten in two days brother”.  I decided to give him some pocket money and took him to Taco Bell and I asked him what he had been doing. He said he had been living in a homeless shelter but had gotten a two day “time off” because he spent too much time in the shower and was now trying to hustle up the money to get his license.

Later that night I drove by that same bus stop and I saw B again. He did not see me; because he was reading a book at the bus stop and seemed to be into it and I am sure that to all of those passing by looking his direction he was just another big homeless black man, but I knew he had a story.

A man is going to do what he is going to do. If I was him I would just get out of St. Louis and live closer to family; but there may be things I do not know. For me though, what the story of B illustrates is how a man can just slowly devolve over the course of years and then finally hit rock bottom. It also leads me to believe that there are other nameless homeless faces out there who have their won stories-maybe not so different than B.