For What It’s Worth

It’s criminal what happens to criminals sometimes

Near as I can tell, passing an IQ test is not a requirement to be an unsuccessful criminal. A bad memory may help, though.

Perhaps you saw the story the other day about four thieves in Madrid, Spain, whose theft fell short of complete success thanks to a flat tire and a memory lapse. Police said the four hooded thieves crashed a van into a warehouse belonging to the SEUR courier service and made off with sacks of valuables. Newspapers reported that the loot included diamonds and Rolex watches. The courier service said the stolen goods were things of “special value” worth no more than $67,000, though news reports said the amount was much higher.

After crashing into the warehouse, the thieves tossed the sacks of loot into a waiting Audi automobile and fled the scene. However, as they were merging into traffic on a Madrid highway they crashed the Audi into another car. That caused a flat tire on the Audi.

Stymied by the flat, they carjacked another vehicle at gunpoint and got away. No one was hurt. However, apparently all four thieves have memory issues. They forgot most their loot, leaving the sacks in the back seat of the Audi grounded by the flat tire.

I suppose you could say that they flat out goofed up.

Couldn’t stop myself; I had to laugh about the situation. Reading about it also brought to mind another incident several years ago in which a memory lapse stalled out a perfectly good robbery attempt.

It happened in Kentucky, though I don’t recall the name of the town. Two fellows pulled their car into a parking place in front of a convenience store and, in preparation for a quick getaway, left the motor running while they entered the store. They held up the clerk and dashed out of the store with a sack full of money from the cash register.

Sure enough the car was still running and ready to roll. Probably with the gas tank full, though I don’t know that. One robber ran to the passenger side door and the other to the driver’s side door. They grabbed the handles to open the doors and made a startling discovery.

They had locked the car with the keys in the ignition. Well, at least the car wasn’t stolen while they were inside robbing the store.

The absolute funniest I remember was a slapstick comedy ending to a chase in which two fleeing suspects ended up knocking themselves out in a head-to-head collision. It happened back in the mid-1970s when I was managing editor of a daily newspaper in Tennessee. The story, out of London, England, came over the AP news service.

Actually, it was quite appropriate that the incident occurred in London because it fit right in with the British sense of humor. I happen to enjoy British humor, and this real-life incident could easily have been something in a British TV comedy show.

Two blokes (this was London, remember) were arrested, though for what I don’t remember. The bobby making the arrest used a single set of handcuffs and cuffed the men together. Maybe he had only one set of handcuffs or perhaps he just thought it better to have the men handcuffed together rather than separately, not that it matters why.

The two arrested men apparently thought they saw an opportunity to escape custody, so they took off running down the street, striding in tandem and the bobby in hot pursuit. Then came the IQ mishap, brain cramp or whatever.

Deciding to see if they were getting away, the men looked back to see whether they were gaining ground on their pursuer.  The mistake was that they looked back at the same time rather than having one look back and the other keep watch on the sidewalk ahead. When they turned their heads back to see where they were going, they realized a need for instantaneous action. A light pole was directly in their path and they needed to veer right or left within a step to avoid the pole. One veered left, the other right.

What went on in their minds at that instant or what exclamation they may have uttered, I can only guess. I’m positive they wished they had air brakes in their shoes or some kind of hydraulic lock system in their legs. Anything that could stop a man running at full speed within a half step or less. Praying was out, I’m sure, because there wasn’t time to utter one.

Yes, just like in a comedy routine, one bloke went by the pole on the left side and one went by on the right side. The handcuffed hands didn’t go by. When the cuffed hands hit the pole, the two guys were jerked together in a head-to-head crash that knocked both of them unconscious.

Chances are, there is a moral to this story, but I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s something as simple as never look back, or don’t worry about what’s behind you, it’s what’s ahead that matters.

Moral or not, for those two not choosing the same side of the light pole meant lights out.

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