One thing about being on this Harlem Globetrotters tour, it toughens you up. Maybe that’s why when my phone and other items got stolen at my announcers table I did what I did. Heck, the local police department looked at the “Find My iPhone” location of my stolen phone and told me as much.
After our game in Savannah, Georgia I was helping a fan with our post-game autograph session and I noticed two young boys probably twelve and thirteen years old hovering the announcers table but didn’t think much of it. When I returned, I noticed my backpack was open and my phone was unplugged and missing. I asked Ruben, our A/V technician and he recalled the boys suspicious behavior. I didn’t want to be “that guy” and accuse two young black kids of stealing something but I agreed that based on our entire tour, their behavior was unusual and were the only ones near our personal things.
I approached the first kid, the youngest of the two. I asked him if he saw anyone going thru my backpack and take a phone. He looked down at the ground and shook his head, “No”. I asked if his friend picked it up. He look off to the side and said, “No. You can search me.” and put his arms out. I could feel my anxiety make my chest tighten. I saw the older kid, so I approached him and asked him the same questions. He also said I could search him and spread out his arms. He never made eye contact with me. I felt so bad, that maybe this was common for them but I was also frustrated that maybe this was something they did often. I had no proof and we had to pack up an leave.
I asked a fan to let me borrow their phone only to find out my phone was turned off. Stolen. I put it into “Lost Mode” and we left for our hotel. When we arrived I called the police to make a report. During that report, the officer told me stories of kids who return home with stolen phones and expensive laptop computers, yet in his experience many parents never question where it came from. I located my phone via the “Find My Phone” app. It was in an empty lot next to a church and a duplex ten minutes away. The officer suggested someone tossed it out a window. I suggested if it was the kids, they took it outside to play with it, or risk getting seen with it. The officer said it would very difficult to retrieve it but they would follow up most likely the next day. I filed a report but I couldn’t wait.
It was 11:00 p.m. and I decided to hire an Ubër driver to take me to the duplex. I figured if I wore my Globetrotter shirt and badge, I would be taken seriously when I explained my situation should there be any trouble.
The Ubër driver was wearing a flannel shirt, mullet haircut with a confederate flag on it, reeked of cigarettes, and missing all of his front teeth. When he saw what area of town we were headed too, he warned me it was high crime neighborhood and I said, “I know. Somebody took my phone and were going to go get it.”
You see the reason I was so determined to get my phone (despite still owing $600 on my AT&T Next plan) was that I’ve made video blogs this entire tour (AVAILABLE ON MY WEBSITE) and all my footage would of been lost. I knew everything would be ok if I handled it without aggression or anger.
When we arrived I had a choice as to which duplex door to knock on. Left or Right. The exterior was poorly maintained, I could see bedsheets loosely hung as curtains, the yard was littered with trash and the only dim light came from the church across the street. I knocked on the door on the right and immdiately my mind raced with thoughts like “What if it’s a drug dealers house?” I just watched Straight Outta Compton! I imagined someone with a shotgun just inside with their back to the door. It was too late…the yellow porch light flipped on. I could hear the deadbolts and door chain. My heart sank to my stomach. The door opened…
I could not see his face very well through the filthy screen door. Then I immdiately recognized the gold and black jacket. A calmness washed over me and I slightly grinned.
“Your the kid from the Globetrotter game. Where is your Mom? I need to talk to her.”
He turned around and went inside. The younger boy came outside, his head looking down the whole time. He put his hands in his pockets and said, “I didn’t take it sir.” The other kid came back and said his Mom was in the shower. So I said,
“If you go get my phone right now, I won’t tell you mom. I’ll leave. The police know where you live because we saw on the GPS when you went out back to turn it on. I’ll tell the police not to come over here if you just give me the phone.”
He turned around and returned with the phone. I explained to them the next time they steal a phone they will go to jail because of GPS apps. I found them on my own and I was the announcer.
As I walked away a young guy maybe twenty-two or twenty-four years came outside yelling, his left arm behind his back is if he were holding a gun in the back of his jeans . “WHATS UP?! WHATS UP?!” I knew better than to say too much so I said, “These two fellas found my phone and were returning it to me. Thanks guys.” I walked away. I immediately suspected that the older brother uses the two boys to steal. They bring him the stolen items and that’s why they offer to let people search them. I felt so bad for them.
The Ubër driver had been waiting for me the entire time. I had given him an extra $10 and told him to wait with the car running. When I got into the car I told him I got my phone back. He was very happy. Then he said, in a thick, backwoods, southern accent…
“Hey man. I’m glad you got yer phone back. I had yer back if anythin’ got rough.”
Then he proceeded to reach under his seat and show me his .357 MAGNUM AND A TASER. The taser was sparking and crackling as it illuminated the entire car. I looked at him and his face was lit up in flickers of blue and white. His eyes were excited and and looked at me with a crazy deep chuckle. “It’s non-lethal” he said as he stared at me with his toothless grin.
I said nervously but pleasantly to take me back to the hotel. The police officer was still in his car, asleep. I tapped on his window and waved the phone at him. I told him the story and he could not believe I went over there.”That’s a rough area!” he said. Then he proceeded cancel the report on his walkie-talkie. When he was asked by the dispatcher how I got my phone back the dispatcher exclaimed, “THATS A ROUGH AREA!”
Thanks for reading this blog I typed from my recovered phone. According to my coworker Ron “The Terminator” Mathias I’m a straight up “Gangsta” knocking on doors in the hood AND actually got my phone back. I’m just glad my Ubër driver wasn’t a serial killer.