Friends are friends and will always be remembered

To the Editor:

My friend Susan Linehan and I left our left Bank hotel in Odeon early as Dan and my wife, Karen, slept in. We walked the street (no cars) on our way to a nice café for petit déjeuner, a light breakfast of coffee and croissant avec beurre.

We observed from 30 or 40 feet away two policemen engaged with two rough-looking characters who were much taller and more physical than the two local policemen even more so considering the additional height of the traditional tall hats they wore.

I had a run-in once before with the “real” Paris police who you really don’t want to mess with. I was on the Right Bank, taking photos of flowers already in bloom on display in late February at the flower shops along the Seine. Then I saw a group of the “real” Paris police.

I noticed and was impressed that they wore roller blades. I took a picture of them as I wanted to share with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the New York City police my new-found discovery. As I clicked the camera, one of them saw me and wagged his finger at me with a universal “no, no” gesture.

In seconds, I was surrounded by at least five police who came at me, circling on their roller blades from all directions and began excoriating me in French. They obviously were pissed. They kept yelling at me until one finally said in English, “Do you speak French?”

I sheepishly looked up at the angry faces towering above me and replied un peu while gesturing “a little” with my thumb and forefinger just to be sure. In perfect English, I was told, “You don’t take pictures of the police, you idiot!”

And then they were gone just as suddenly as they appeared, weaving in and out in an impressive well-choreographed formation. Thoroughly embarrassed, I never corresponded with the mayor.

Not tall at all, I even towered above the delicate looking police we encountered on the Rue St-André des Arts that morning. The menacing suspects the police engaged with were probably hung over or still drunk from the night before. They were belligerent.

The cuffs appeared. They were arrested but not yet apprehended when they resisted and began pushing the physically out-matched police away, warding them off.  Without a second of hesitation, I covered the ground between us in no time and restrained one of the offenders.

Quite aware he might have a weapon — I had none — I was totally ready to body slam him to the cobblestones if he so much as twitched. Now it was two against one. The police put their man down hard and cuffed him then turned their attention to my culprit.

I released him into their arms and, as he was being cuffed behind his back, one of the policemen quietly said, “Merci.” 

I looked back at my usually chatty friend. Susan had not moved an inch. She was speechless. Her mouth was wide open in complete shock.

Relieved the incident was over, as it had lasted just a couple of minutes, we continued on to the now nearly full café. We managed to find a table inside, sat down, and ordered. The whole place was abuzz as the assault on the officers was just outside in clear view to all. I asked Susan not to mention what happened so as not to distress my wife.

Soon after, Dan and Karen joined Susan and I. Though the place was still buzzing, Susan said not a word. The entire room was talking about how nice it was of the ”American” to have helped their local police with the arrests.

There were problems with my secretive plan as Karen was fluent in French and I was the only American present. My actions and involvement in the arrests soon became obvious. My behavior still embarrasses and distresses Karen to this day but I can’t help it.

Sadly, many years later, Dan Satre, unarmed but in an unruly mood, was tased to death by six policemen when he resisted arrest on the street in front of his home and family in Ballston Spa. No charges were filed against the policemen for my friend’s murder. There were no riots or peaceful demonstrations in protest.

But friends are friends and will always be remembered.

Ed Cowley



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