SWAT’s response to a serial hugger, and a neighbor in crisis

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“Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed  … but love your neighbor as yourself… Leviticus 19:16,18


Last November my neighborhood was shocked by Manchester Police Department’s response to a mental health crisis. It began with a distraught neighbor and a call for service that escalated too fast.

Our neighbor was in serious danger and could have died if someone didn’t intervene, so I did.
A call for mental health intervention brought a swarm of police, 22 rifles and so much more. It seemed a war zone unfolded right before my eyes. Our neighbor was unable to respond in a way that would assure a good outcome. And at that moment I was compelled to act. I tried desperately to coach, direct, and do whatever was necessary to help keep him alive.
I thank God that nobody was physically harmed and that the outcome was good overall.
No one was shot. No police dog was released. No Tasers, no real force at all. But why did all the force come to my street? SWAT team with a Bear Cat, 22 rifles in all for a man who had quietly confided in his brother that he’d lost his will to live? No mental health crisis team came, only heavily armed police officers.
Armed officers to the left and my coat, to the right, where I dropped it on the ground after I stepped off my property to hug my neighbor, and was ordered to my knees. Photo/Bill Robidoux

Why didn’t these officers, or even our police chief, want to talk about what was going on? Instead, my neighbor and I were both arrested. I was booked and charged with crimes, no questions asked.

My crimes were disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Class A misdemeanors each carrying  punishments up to one year in prison and $2,000 in fines. After paying $2,500 for an attorney, who got the prosecutor to drop one charge and reduce the other to a Class B misdemeanor – and then paying another $125 for my “crime,” the case is finally considered settled. I can expunge my record in a few years if I pay some more money to the court system.

But nothing really feels settled to me.

My greatest offense was stepping in the street in front of my house to hug my neighbor, honoring his request.

My biggest disappointment was being silenced by our “justice” system, punished for loving my neighbor, and rejected by our police chief. I lost my faith that day. Faith now means something very different, and mostly, useless.


Jim Robidoux is father of four, lives and works in Manchester, and occasionally writes about life in The Life Section – specifically, his own. He enjoys bicycling to work, urban gardening, and watching the Phillies at Billy’s. And he happens to be married to Manchester Ink Link editor Carol Robidoux. He can be reached at jrmetalman@comcast.net.