A sad outcome to a young man’s cry for help this morning on the 500 block of Brock Asp Drive. 27-year-old Damion Jones, a cashier at the local Wal-Mart, found himself in the parking lot of a McDonald’s out of breath, confused, and unsure of how to get where he was going. In his distress, he called what he believed to be the phone number of local law enforcement. Unbeknownst to him, it was actually a number linked to a group of scam artists calling themselves D.O.E. (Department of Excuses).

Seeing the opportunity to prey on someone in a vulnerable state, the D.O.E. dispatched two members who assumed the alias’ Officer Too Busy and Officer Too Broke. They found Damion pacing the McDonald’s parking lot and clearly in an agitated state. They slowly climbed out of their patrol cars and tried to verify that he was the one who placed the call. He responded that he was the caller and began walking towards them.

The officers, responding according to their scam artist training, proceeded to de-escalate the situation by welcoming him to sit by their patrol cars and talk out the situation.

Wary but open, he took them up on their offer and sat with them against the back wall of the establishment. Before he knew it, they had handcuffed him to pipes coming out of the building, all the while calmly reassuring that it was just policy for his own protection. At first, he seemed to resist, but he slowly began to believe that they were there to help him and that he should just listen and permit it to happen.

The officers spent the next 30 minutes encouraging Mr. Jones that he would definitely get to where he wanted to go when he got a promotion, when his family situation calmed down, after his car was fixed, once things slowed down at work, and definitely before he turned 30. As they were doing so, they were quietly stealing money and cards out of the wallet they took, claiming to need it for identification purposes.

Damion never saw through their guise, however. Instead, he felt like they were helping him. By the time the conversation ended, Damion was no longer agitated and felt hopeful about all the progress he would make just as soon as all the external circumstances lined up to make it convenient to do so. He ignored the nagging feeling that he had no better idea about how to get where he wanted to go than when the officers first showed up.

Officer Too Broke finished by explaining that, as a matter of department policy, they were going to leave him handcuffed to McDonald’s for now until he felt he was ready to move on. As a measure of good faith, he even slipped the keys to the handcuffs into Damion’s hand to set himself free whenever he felt like everything was ready to do so. They were planning on setting him up for future scams at a later point in time. Little did they know that would be the last time they would see him. A few hours later, Damion, still handcuffed to the pipes, died of a massive heart attack, the key found still in his hand.

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