How to Perform a Citizen's Arrest
Curtist Sliwa is an activist and the founder of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer anti-crime organization. Founded in 1979 in New York, the group now leads unarmed safety patrols and spearheads educational programs in over 140 cities around the world. In 1992, Sliwa was ambushed by two gunmen from inside a stolen taxi in New York; he managed to escape but was shot repeatedly. John A. Gotti, son of the late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, was charged with conspiring to murder Sliwa, but the case ended in a mistrial. Sliwa is currently a conservative radio talk show host.
Topic: Citizens Arrest Scenario #1: The new-agey, crystal-balancing, Oprah fan.
Curtis Sliwa: So let’s just assume we’re out in the streets and I’ve become aware that this suspect has committed a crime of shoplifting. Not the worst crime in the world, but the shopkeeper says, “Hey that guy just stole ten bags of Secret deodorant.” And I can smell the guy from a distance and now I know why he needs the Secret deodorant, but he didn’t pay for it, right? So now I’m basically doing my psychic interpretation of him and I realize he is a real nebbish. He is a real schlub. He is like not going to physically resist. He probably does yoga. You know he is probably very new-agey. He probably balances crystals and watches Oprah, so I know I got this guy in control. I’m the sadist. He is the masochist. He probably wants me to put a bull gag in his mouth and whip him, but it’s not that kind of submission, so what I do is I refer to the ancient code of Magna Carta and as if I was the sheriff of Nottingham I say, “You, a suspect who has committed a crime, you are in violation of the penal code, so therefore, I want you to wait for the police, for 5-0, cop a squat, sit down and sit down now.” So he understands I’m in charge and he likes to be submissive. Maybe he is getting his jollies off while he is waiting. Problem is, I’m calling 911 and the cops are busting donuts right, they’re pounding donuts waiting for the fresh buttermilk twist to come out of the Dunkin Donuts oven. We’ll be waiting a month of Sundays, but he is enjoying being submissive, so hey, no pain, no strain, right.
Topic: Citizens Arrest Scenario #2: The cretin with chromosome damage.
Curtis Sliwa: So now I have reason to believe or I’ve seen or it’s been brought to my attention that this cretin with chromosome damage has snatched a chain off somebody’s neck and it’s not a little monster because I could tell he hasn’t been to a Lady Gaga concert. He is not weak and soft in that regard, but he is ready to put up a fight. I can tell. There is a certain intensity. Once again, I’m using my psychic parameters. Now in a general self-defense course they would say look for his solar plexus. I can’t even find his girdle never mind his goiter, so I’m not even looking for his solar plexus. They say you want to him boom, right in his Adam’s apple. You drive his Adam’s apple or the bridge of his nose and he’ll know not to go on. You think I’m going to be wrestling around bridge of the nose, Adam’s apple as if I’m studying biology to prepare to become Doctor MD. No, what I do is if it’s myself or if there are a number of others, the weakest point of any person is their kneecaps. I got to make his kneecaps sing and ring and in fact his instep here, which just more than five pounds of pressure bam and this guy is going to be doing the Hopalong Cassidy and then as he is doing the Hopalong Cassidy I’m going to take his head, right, like this, bam, right down onto his knee. Down he goes. He will be in the primal fetal position.
I really won’t have to do much if I have a pair of handcuffs on or if I have a belt I just tie him up to a stationary object and wait for the police to arrive. Now my problem is if there is massive swelling and I can’t find a stake or a piece of iron to put the swelling down I can end up going to jail myself because I don’t have the right to go over the top, use excessive physical force. Even though he has committed a crime I have no special powers or privileges. I am not a police officer, so I have to make sure that whatever force I use, particularly in this fact that he has just snatched a chain. He hasn’t threatened anybody’s life. That if I violated him physically he may go to jail, get charged with chain snatching, but I may be charged with assault and battery because a copper may turn around after munching on the donuts and say, “You know you have the right to counter charge. Have him arrested.” And then once he hooks up with a lawyer, a B lawyer that they assign in court he goes, “Hey did you ever think of suing the Guardian Angels?” “I could get a third of the action, no retainer. Sign on the dotted line.” So you got to be very cautious under column B rules and regulations.
Topic: Citizens Arrest Scenario #3: The suicide kamikaze maniac.
Curtis Sliwa: Okay, now this guy, enemy of society is intent on becoming a modern day street warrior, a.k.a., Shahid, a.k.a., suicide kamikaze maniac because he knows he is going to j-a-i-l and he wants to go out in a blaze of glory. He could have a bat. He could have a stick. He could have a chain. He could have a shiv. Boom, he wants to stab me right underneath the ribs, which will cause me to bleed to death before I even hit the ground or he might have a tooly and a gun. I’ve got to make an instantaneous decision to move towards the guy because if I move away from the guy there is good chance I’m going to get hit anyway and in the process of falling back I lose the aggressiveness. He is on the attack. I am on the defensive. Very difficult for me to get control of him.
So what I want to be able to do is get him into a position where I can spin him around and then give them what I call the Sicilian handcuffs. Now by me restraining him and with all of his moving one way or the other, whatever, at that point if I have another Guardian Angel two or three we can take him down lickety-split. If I’m by myself I can wrestle him one way. I can wrestle him the other or I can just take him off the ground and break his back. Now, you see in the process of breaking his back you might how dastardly, how over the top, how Neanderthal of you, but if this guy has a weapon and he is just committed a crime with a weapon guess what? The judge is going to actually like an accordion give me more leeway than they would a police officer who should know better. Who should be in control of his mental and physical faculties, who should be able to immediately get on his walkie-talkie and summon other police officers to give him some backup.
If I’m on my own I have to use whatever force is necessary to protect myself, to protect other victims, to protect maybe in this instance even himself, because if he has a weapon he may end up doing harm to himself if he misuses it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up at a location where the guy who, let’s face it, couldn’t connect all the dots even if he tried for a month of Sundays, ended up shooting himself because they keep the gun there in the belt and they keep it right near their thigh and they end up shooting themselves so many times because they already have it on the trigger. It’s already triggered to fire that round that is in the barrel of the gun. They don’t even have the safety on, so they end up shooting themselves as they’re trying to run away from you, so you’re actually doing him a solid even though temporarily he is going to have a lot of strain and pain and oohs and ahhs. Don’t worry about it. He’ll still live. He is not going to be room temperature and you won’t be sued.
Now, this is not something you should be trying in your own house. This is something that you have to practice, practice, practice, like as if you were playing Rachmaninoff at a concerto on a baby grand piano. Trust me. I’ve done this many, many times, so I wouldn’t suggest it as a sort of a new jack, a first time citizen arrester out there, a do-gooder who all of the sudden wants to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Recorded July 6, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa demonstrates three potential scenarios for a wannabe "do-gooder" to perform a citizen's arrest.