“On Being Followed in Your Own Community by the City Authority”
I live in a nice and gated community in West of Fort Pierce, Florida. When asked where they live, people who live in this area of Fort Pierce would clarify that they live in “West of Fort Pierce,” in Portofino Shores, near Vero Beach. In fact, they would even say that we live in “Lakewood Park,” not really a part of the traditional Fort Pierce. If you insist, they would tell you a long story with substantially descriptive detailed information why their community is different from the traditional city of Fort Pierce. Most of the individuals and families who live in this middle class Portofino Shores are professionals; some of us are College professors, lawyers, doctors, nurses, police officers, high school teachers and principals, retired professionals, etc.
About five months ago, I was stopped by the Police as I was walking in my own community. Habitually, I wake up at 5:30 am to walk or jog (depending on how I feel that morning); this is a physical exercise I repeat three times a week. I love walking in the morning, especially early in the morning at 5:30 am to walk, to exercise, and to pray, simultaneously.
The morning hour provides me with an enormous opportunity to spend quality time in prayer with the Lord, both in personal and intercessory prayers. Because of my busy schedule (I’m a father of four children, husband of one wife, serve as the lead Pastor of a church-plant in Fort Pierce, and am a Professor of English and Literature at a local college in Fort Pierce.), the early morning is such a refreshing moment to spend time with the Lord in prayer. I do not like to walk with anyone because I do not want to be interrupted or distracted in my prayer-walk. I began this routine because I wanted to improve my prayer life, not really to exercise 😊
In addition, every morning I take my daughter Abby to school; she must be at school by 8:20 am. So, the timing works well for me and for her, as I wake her up five days a week, at 7:00 am to eat, shower, and get her ready for her morning class (My wife, who is a teacher, must be at work at 7:15 am). This is a weekly routine. Nonetheless, no one else in (my) Portofino Shores community gets up that early to walk at 5:30 am. I am the only resident who does so since I rarely see anyone else walking at that hour. However, a historic incident or series of incidents would change everything!
One early morning, I believe it was close to 6:00 am; as a routine, I make several rounds and walk through every street in the community. For example, I would walk in my own street and pass by my home two to three times in my walking routine. As I passed by my home around that time, there were three police vehicles stationed in my street, about 100 to 150 feet from my house. (Again, it was not 6:00 am yet, if I remember correctly.) I thought I have left my school backpack in my office at work; hence, I went to the trunk of my truck to make sure it was there. My vehicle was parked at in my driveway, at the house. Suddenly, a female officer, with a very bright flashlight, was advancing towards me, flashing the flashlight towards my face and my vehicle, and asking me: “Do you live here?” With great amazement, I did not know what to tell her and how to answer her question. I couldn’t believe she would ask me that strange question when she saw me in my driveway, held my car/home key in my right hand, and just opened my own vehicle with my own key. I took a long pause before I responded to her. Kindly, have I replied to her: “Yes, I live here, and why you even asked me that question?”
She stated to me “we’re looking for someone in the community. If you happen to see him, please let us know.” I replied, “Sure,” and immediately entered in my house and never came back outside to complete my walk that morning.
Two days after, as previously mentioned, I woke up at 5:30 am to walk and pray in my community. As I was walking, I noticed a bright light behind me; as I turned, it was a Police car monitoring me or monitoring the community? I did not know exactly what its purpose or objective was. Evidently, the officer in the vehicle was following me. A week later, I was being followed once again by another Police car.
Interestingly, two to three more times in the same month, as I was coming from teaching (work) at the College to home, there was a Police vehicle stationed at the entrance of the Community, seemingly waiting for me to arrive. As I was about to enter the entrance gate, the vehicle followed me all the way to the Gate. I entered the side of the gate reserved for residents; the officer entered the parallel entrance reserved for guests, businesses, and authorities. As I turned right at the stop sign to go to my street leading toward my home, my ultimate destination, he made a U-turn and exited the gate. Another time, it was my wife who noticed another police vehicle was following me to the entrance gate. Finally, another time, as I was coming from work, I noticed another officer driving behind my vehicle following me for about 3 to 4 miles all the way to the entrance gate of the Portofino Shores.
I never stopped to ask any question or voice any concerns to any of these officers who have routinely followed me closely. I reported all these incidents to my wife; she cautioned me not to wake up at 5:30 am to walk and pray; rather, she advised that I should walk in the community when everyone else is awake. She reminded me that “You are a black male.” (In my heart, I whispered, “I’m a pastor and professor. I am a good citizen, a good man, and not a criminal.”)
Since the last incident occurred, I stopped walking in the community; nonetheless, I would like to go back to my weekly routine. Confessedly, I am also fearful for my life—especially when one is being followed, directly and indirectly, by someone in authority and power who could easily misuse that power to take up your life, unwarrantedly. You will never know what the outcome will be and could be.
Have a great and blessed weekend, friends!