Arrested... by God's Grace
- Wednesday, February 09, 2011
To say that January 31, 2009 is forever engrained in the minds of Kevin and Keely Parker* is putting it mildly. It was a Saturday morning; Kevin was scheduled to be at work about an hour from their suburban home north of Orlando where they live with their two daughters. For once, he left in time to arrive early. He merged his minivan onto I-4 West, joined a group of cars and did what most drivers do on this particular interstate: he sped.
“I was doing about 75 with everyone else,” he says, “when I noticed a Florida Highway Patrol car getting off the John Young Parkway onto I-4.”
Like the rest of the cars, the marked car was beating the speed limit. In fact, it stayed about two cars ahead of Kevin for several miles.
“The other cars passed the patrol car and then it was him and me in the fast lane. I noticed he was slowing down; I assumed it was to take the left exit onto Kirkman. And I admit, I jerked my car around him with a little bit of an attitude.”
The unfortunate happened. Instead of exiting, the patrol car zoomed up behind him, flashed its lights, and Kevin did what any good citizen would do. He pulled over onto the side of the road.
“I dropped my window about halfway and waited for what usually comes next: the officer sits while he calls in the license plate and waits for a background on the driver and car. But instead, the officer barreled out of his car and up to mine. He took no precautions. One second he wasn’t there and the next he was.”
What came next is the kind of stuff Twilight Zone episodes are made of. The officer demanded Kevin’s license and registration to which Kevin jovially replied, “You’re really gonna give me a ticket for this?”
“License and registration.”
Kevin, an attractive, well-groomed man who, that day, wore a pair of slacks with a logoed shirt and windbreaker says now that he honestly thought that with a little mano-e-mano conversation, he’d soon be happily on his way toward where his job was taking him. But instead, the officer asked, “Are you refusing?”
Kevin realized this had gone too far. He shook his head, no.
“Are you refusing?”
“No,” Kevin said. “I’ll give you whatever you want.” He kept his hands on the steering wheel so they were in plain sight. The problem he now faced was how to get his wallet out of the back pants pocket without the officer becoming more agitated.
“Get out of the car,” the officer demanded.
For a traffic violation? “No,” Kevin refused, feeling that if he did, he may be putting himself at risk.
Another Twilight Zone moment: the officer called for backup, then reached into the window to unlock the door.
“At this point, I’m gripping the wheel. I’m still buckled up. The officer grabbed my coat and shirt and attempted to pull me out of the car. I had just bought the eyeglasses I was wearing. They were expensive, so I turned away to pull them off and place them on the passenger’s seat. At the same time, the officer pulled out pepper spray and sprayed me.” Kevin covered his eyes to avoid any damage.
Kevin said to the officer, “My seatbelt is on.”
The officer grabbed Kevin’s left arm, twisted it. “Get it off,” he demanded.
It was then Kevin did the one thing that would land him more infamy than he’d ever imagined that morning. Spying his cell phone on the dashboard, he reached for it and dialed 9-1-1.
“As soon as I saw the call was connected, I started yelling my name, location, and that I needed help. I said, ‘Call my wife, call an attorney, call the [local news stations]! I’m a U.S. citizen! I need help!’ All the while the officer has taken off my seatbelt and is dragging me out of the car. I jumped up on the door jam of the minivan and started waving at traffic, trying to get someone to stop and help me.”
Twice the officer tried to sweep Kevin’s legs out from under him, but neither time worked. “Everything I thought I knew about the world was working against me. Nothing like this was supposed to happen to everyday people like me.”
Backup arrived and Kevin said, “Thank God you’re here!” But his early morning nightmare was not over. Thinking relief had arrived, he relaxed and was then thrown to the ground. Then the backup officer was able to force him into a choke hold. “I thought, ‘So this is it. This is how my life ends. My face is in the dirt, the tunnel vision started, and I figure I’m going to die now.”
Kevin looked up, and as he did, he saw a number of flashing lights coming toward him. Not quite the Angels of Glory yet. These were more law enforcement officers and the fire department. “When I saw the fire department I literally thanked God. The handcuffs were released…I turned my face toward heaven and gave thanks for being alive.”
Kevin’s vital signs were shockingly out of range; he was in shock. Just then another officer walked up. “I noticed his WWJD bracelet. I said, ‘I like your bracelet.’ He looked down at me, noticed my cross necklace, which was now out of my shirt, and said, ‘I like your cross.’” Kevin now felt somewhat better just knowing this man was with him. “He even offered me a cough drop and [a chance] to call my wife. At that moment I felt such peace; I knew it would all be okay.”
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…
Keely Parker was asleep during her husband’s ordeal, still nursing a case of bronchitis. Through a fog of cold medication she heard their eleven-year-old daughter come into the room. “Mom, there’s a real important call you need to take,” she said.
Keely took the phone from her daughter’s hand. “Hello?”
“This is Officer Clark.* Your husband is being arrested…”
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What? Where is he?”
Officer Clark told her she should come down to the Orange County Jail to bail out her husband.
“I kept thinking surely he was talking about another Kevin Parker.”
Having never been in this situation, Keely called her father and asked, “Dad, what do I do?”
“You go down to the jail and bail out your husband,” he said.
When she arrived at the jail, it was to discover that her husband was still sitting on the side of the road with about thirteen officers and paramedics.
“The woman working the desk was very kind. She knew I was out of my element. She told me I’d have to wait for the paperwork to come in. Sometime later she motioned for me to come to where she sat. ‘Your husband’s been very bad,’ she told me.” Again, Keely thought surely they had the wrong Kevin Parker.
“Then she said, ‘He’s being charged with three felonies and four misdemeanors.’ And I thought, Kevin?” She told me what I needed to do as far as bail. I did it and then returned.
Making Friends on the Inside (Having Friends on the Outside)
Kevin finally made it to the jail where he was booked and had his mug shot taken. “I watched several of my fellow inmates being booked,” Kevin now says with a smile, “and it was pretty general stuff. But when it was my turn, the booking officer said, ‘Do not move a muscle. If you do, you won’t know what hit you.’ Another officer asked me, ‘Are you insane? Have you ever been committed?’ Another said I was lucky to be alive. ‘I would have shot you,’ he said.”
But funny things also started to happen. A young man who had just been arrested said, “Dude! I saw you on TV!” Another showed him how to get a baloney sandwich and how to make phone calls.
After being released, Kevin’s first order of business was to get an attorney. “But we’d never needed an attorney before,” Keely says. “And we didn’t know where to start, so friends gave us a name.”
Kevin admits that he felt hopeless during this time. “My whole world was shattered. Everything I’d ever believed about my country and the laws we live under was gone. Everything was questioned. We were under a gag order. It was all over the news, even Fox & Friends. So when our girls came home from school and their friends had asked questions or others had been cruel, there was nothing we could do. Nothing they could say.”
Not one to sit still, Kevin asked his attorney what he could do to help with his case. “There’s nothing you can do,” he was told. But Kevin, a problem solver, wasn’t willing to just do nothing. “Get character references, then,” the attorney suggested.
Still, Keely had an additional idea. She had been researching novenas (In the Catholic Church, a novena is a devotion consisting of a prayer repeated on nine successive days) and her prompting inspired Kevin to find one that spoke to him. “It was a prayer to the Holy Spirit.”
“I literally prayed on my knees,” Kevin now says. “I let the prayer sink into my heart. And when the nine days were up, I kept praying. Maybe prayer, I decided, was the only hope I had.”
“And while he was doing that,” Keely adds, “the girls and I were praying together at night.”
Kevin continues, “All my life I believed in God and I believed in praying to God, but I had never believed in the specific power of prayer. I didn’t know prayer could lead to miracles. I know that now.”
When Miracles Come
Kevin had two specific requests of God. First, that he stay out of prison. “I needed to be able to provide for my family.” The second was for the money necessary to pay for the mounting legal fees.
Kevin and Keely both tear up at this point in their story. “God totally exceeded our expectations.”
Weeks before Kevin’s arrest, the officer who pulled him over had been in a car accident while on duty. Because he was at fault, his supervisor issued him a citation. Afterward, the officer took White-Out to the witness list and then boldly told his supervisor. On March 11, six weeks after Kevin’s ordeal on I-4, charges were filed against the officer. In July, Kevin’s attorney discovered the charges and “within a couple of hours, it was over.”
The attorney called Kevin and Keely into his office. “The stars aligned for you,” he told us.
“No,” they said. “God gave us a miracle.”
“There is a reason it was me,” Kevin now says tearfully. “A reason for all of this. God said to me, ‘Wake up, man.’ I’d been a lukewarm Christian, but now I realize that faith isn’t about religion. Faith is about a relationship with God and, in turn, being His reflection.”
“Some people see rainbows and remember the promises of God,” Keely adds. “Kevin sees Dragon Tails in the clouds. It’s just something between him and God. Sometimes he’ll send me a picture via his cell phone. It’s really neat.”
“After an experience like ours,” Kevin concludes, “you start to see God in the everyday.”
*Last names have been changed.
Eva Marie Everson is the author of a number of books including Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey through Israel and fiction works like This Fine Life. She is a popular speaker at women's groups and churches both nationally and internationally.
Publication date: February 9, 2011
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