Longform

Don't Mess With the Finger

It's Sunday, August 11, 1996. Somewhere on the 17000 block of East Dickenson Place, an alarm is going off, which is not uncommon. It could be a car alarm or maybe a home alarm, but Nsikak Ekiko says it's not coming from her house or her garage.

Her neighbors think otherwise. Kids are always hanging around, and car alarms go off every night, they say. Once there was a drive-by shooting in front of the house. The neighbors think the Ekikos are a nuisance. By the next summer, in fact, several will have moved away.

Ekiko's seventeen-year-old son, Aniekan, does drive a Suzuki Samurai with a supersensitive alarm. One night a water sprinkler triggered it, and kids in the neighborhood often set it off as a joke. Aniekan has already been ticketed once and told by a judge to keep the car in the garage. But he says he took the car over to a cousin's house the night before and hasn't brought it back.

Still, around 6:30 in the morning, the Ekikos' phone rings. Nsiskak's husband, Rogers, picks it up. His neighbor from across the street, Jerry Dignan, yells at him, tells him if that car alarm bugs him once more, he'll bring the cops down.

Ekiko tells Dignan not to swear at him and hangs up.

Dignan calls the Aurora police, and Officer Mark Walters is dispatched to the Ekikos' house to check on a noise complaint involving a car alarm. On the way, he talks by radio with Officer Scott Baker, who tells Walters that the Ekiko home is a "no tolerance" house. There have been other complaints at the address, and if the officers find evidence supporting the complaint, they have no discretion: They must write a summons and let the courts handle it.

Baker meets Walters at the Ekikos' front door. They ring the bell.

By this time Rogers Ekiko, a 46-year-old property manager, is downstairs preparing coffee for himself and his wife. He plans to rouse his kids and take them to church. Nsikak, a physical therapist, is upstairs taking a shower, getting ready for work. She doesn't hear the bell ring, doesn't know police are downstairs. The kids, nineteen-year-old Imo, fifteen-year-old Nsisong and fourteen-year-old Iniobong, are asleep.

The officers ask Ekiko for his ID, but he refuses to give it to them. What happens next is a bit unclear: Either Rogers Ekiko lets them in (that's what the cops say) or the cops bust through the chain lock (that's what Ekiko says). From Mrs. Ekiko's vantage point (she's out of the shower now), her husband walks upstairs to get his license, and the officers barge up, too. The cops say they're following a fleeing Ekiko up the stairs. Either way, Mrs. Ekiko walks into her bedroom wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around her head and finds herself staring at the two officers. She yells. Her two daughters run toward her room, see the police, then back out again. Mrs. Ekiko grabs a comforter to wrap around herself.

Rogers Ekiko and the police return downstairs, where things turn even more sour. Ekiko takes them to his garage, where there's a Mercedes but no Suzuki. How can he be ticketed for a noisy car alarm, he asks loudly, when there is no car on his property equipped with an alarm?

Despite Ekiko's pleas, the cops begin to issue him the summons. Walters asks for the spelling of Ekiko's last name, but Ekiko just says, "You know my name," and refuses to produce any identification. The officers ask Ekiko if he wants to go to church that morning or to jail. He says he wants to go to church.

By this time, the children have come downstairs. The teenage kids start yelling at the officers to get out of the house; they want to know who's made the complaint. Walters steps outside and calls for backup. The cops wait until help arrives to press for Ekiko's ID, hoping by then everyone will have calmed down. When Officer John Betz arrives, Ekiko still refuses to cooperate. Betz and Walters try to get him outside, but Ekiko jerks away.

Mrs. Ekiko, watching from the stairs, sees the officers holding her husband's arms behind his back while another officer hits him in the head with his billy club. They begin to drag him to the kitchen, and she and her children beg them to leave him alone. As the two cops move Ekiko away, a third stands to block the family and tells them, "If you cross this line, I will shoot someone." Mrs. Ekiko holds on to her kids' pants to prevent them from going any farther.

The officers see things differently. When they tell Ekiko he's under arrest, he runs back in the house, Walters and Betz behind him, while Baker blocks the other family members from interceding. The men struggle, and at one point Ekiko leaps towards Betz, causing himself, Betz and Walters to fall down a long, narrow open stairway leading to the basement. As they land, Ekiko begins punching and kicking the officers. Walters pulls Ekiko off of Betz and up the stairs. Ekiko continues struggling, and in the kitchen, all three men fall again to the ground. Ekiko lands on top of Walters and bites him in the chest and shoulder. Walters tries to push Ekiko off with his left hand, and that's when it happens.

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T.R. Witcher

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