In the Shadows 

Badge and Dagger

The Mercury bought Michael Hopcroft a large hot chocolate with whipped cream and chopped nuts at Seattle's Best across from city hall last Friday afternoon, February 29.

He was pretty shaken up, having seen a man he knows get Tasered by two cops four days earlier, while riding the #6 bus downtown on MLK from NE Portland. Hopcroft, 44, has suffered from severe depression and recurrent suicidal intentions since 1985, so I was hoping the hot chocolate might cheer him up a bit—at least for the time being.

"Amazingly, I have never been arrested," he said.

Instead, he usually gets placed on five-day mental health holds by various caseworkers when his suicidal thoughts get active—so far, a total of nine times. He was last sent to the psychiatric ward at Providence last December, after a job interview went bad. Hopcroft asked the manager of the supported housing unit where he lives if he could see "a euthanologist."

"I don't think such a person actually exists," Hopcroft chuckled. "But it was what I wanted at the time."

Hopcroft feels bad about being on disability for his depression, which in turn makes him more depressed.

"So no matter what, I can't win," he said.

During his stay at Providence last December, Hopcroft encountered a delusional schizophrenic with a long beard—the man kept wrapping himself in bed sheets and talking about being on a divine mission, about being a wizard or a prophet.

"His version of reality was very different from my own," Hopcroft said. "He would talk about having to fight, and for some reason he was very frustrated they wouldn't let him have a sword."

The man was on the ward when Hopcroft arrived, and still there five days later when he left. But Hopcroft recognized him being Tasered by the cops at the bus stop last Monday.

"We pulled up to the bus stop, and he got on. I remember he was wearing this long green cloak, and saying, 'Go, go,'" said Hopcroft. "Evidently the bus driver saw he was being chased by the cops and said, 'You're not getting on my bus.' The man responded by saying, 'They're not Americans'—but he still got off.

"Then I saw the two officers running up alongside the bus, yelling at him to take his hands out of his pockets, but he refused," Hopcroft continued. "Then I heard a loud pop, and he went down on the ground [as he was being] Tasered, and the bus driver pulled away."

Hopcroft wasn't surprised to see the man being caught by the cops in this situation.

"Unless you've done something dangerous or you're an extreme case, you don't stay on the ward very long," he said.

A call to the cops yielded little information about the Tasered man, since he wasn't charged with a crime. He was reportedly placed on another mental health hold and sent back to the psychiatric ward for evaluation. In such cases, people's identities are kept from the public record for their privacy—although it's understood the man was thought by the cops to be carrying a long dagger, and that he had already assaulted one bystander and threatened another by the time they caught up with him.

Hopcroft, meanwhile, went back to his one- room apartment to play online role-playing games. A published author of two role-playing books, he is looking forward to "game mastering" at a convention later this month.

"It's not very remunerative... but it's something I'm good at," he said. "I have a very hard time viewing anything I do as positive. I hope I haven't depressed you now..."

"No worries," I responded. He finished his hot chocolate, and we walked home separately—in the rain.

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