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Departments : It's a Jungle Out There

Not Your Average Off-Duty Arrest

Stampeding elephants and legalized dueling keep cops on their toes.

June 01, 2002  |  by Commander Gilmore

Not Your Average Off-Duty Arrest

We'll bet this unidentified off-duty Kenyan cop never thought he would need his sidearm on vacation at a five-star resort, but he's really glad he had it handy.

A mixed group of staff and guests were playing a pick-up game of soccer on the manicured lawns of the Maasai Mara Hotel when an uninvited guest crashed the match-and we mean crashed. Out of the trees came a charging, trumpeting bull elephant, apparently intent on stomping not only the ball, but all the players, too. Everybody took off running except our hero, who tried to shoo Jumbo away, then realized his skinny little arms a' waving weren't doing much to halt a ticked-off tusker. Then he fled, too. But just like in the movies, he tripped and fell with Jumbo hot on his heels.

As Jumbo roared and came for him, the cop hopelessly but bravely pulled his off-duty snubbie from under his shirt, took shaky aim, and squeezed the trigger. The "pop" was reportedly lost in Jumbo's roar, but as over a dozen frightened witnesses crossed our hero off their lists of the living, the totally unexpected happened: Jumbo ground to a halt, shook his massive head, and fell over dead. Yup; one shot from a .38 snubbie revolver.

Investigating game officials didn't comment on the placement of the shot, but verified that Jumbo's ticket was punched by a .38. The officer suffered only bruises from his fall, and maybe a case of soiled linens. You can run into a lot of big, bad things in Baltimore, but nothin' like this.

Dueling Italians

As if Italy's national police, the Carabinieri, didn't have enough to do, now they have to dawn-patrol the parks on the lookout for duels. They may be able to come up with local regulations against illegal discharge of firearms in prohibited areas, or perhaps misuse of the kiddie-play lawn, but fighting duels is now legal.

In an attempt to streamline the notoriously cumbersome Italian lawbooks, the legislature wiped out about a thousand archaic laws, including blaspheming, "cursing the deceased," and seducing virgins. My personal favorites were "incitement to libertinism," which I always kinda wanted to be convicted of, and the law that made writing another student's term paper for a fee a felony, subject to prison time.

But when one huge old section of law was rescinded, it seems nobody noticed until afterward that they had also thrown out the prohibition against dueling.

After an initial wave of newspaper editorials predicting carnage in the parks and calling for reinstatement of the law, people began noticing something strange: Italian politicians were behaving much, much more courteously toward each other... And the effect, sources say, mysteriously began to spread. Many Italian officials come from fine old families with a rich history of dueling, and it seems the man in the street is kinda fascinated with the idea as well. Suddenly, people who routinely engaged in offensive, insulting behavior toward others are thinking twice before opening their mouths or putting their middle fingers into play. The demands for reinstatement of the dueling ban dwindled.

Possibly being called to stand behind your rash words? What a radical concept.

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