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Departments : The Beat

The Big Score

Two small-time, small-town criminals find out narcotics theft is harder than it looks.

November 01, 2004  |  by Maury Schuh


James and Vernon were partying late one night at an apartment in Saltillo, Miss. After some "Jack" and a few joints, James had an idea. The apartment was on the backside of a drugstore. James had heard that the prescription drug Dilaudid was selling for 80 bucks a pill and figured that drugstore must be full of them. If they went through that back door, they'd be rich. It was the ultimate big score in rural Mississippi.

James told Vernon about his idea, but Vernon just wasn't sure about it. Vernon had made it all the way through fourth grade before dropping out and it just seemed to him they might get busted. That's when James dared Vernon.

Now, you see, if you dare Vernon to do something, he'll do it come hell or high water. One time they dared him to jump off the roof of the school, the tallest building around. He broke both his arms, but, by gum, he did it, and he was proud of it. You just don't dare Vernon to do anything. Oh, did I mention the plate in his head from when the car ran over him in another dare?

Anyway, James planned it out. You see, being a graduate of the ninth grade, he was the brains of the operation. He decided he was going to kick in the door and then Vernon would run inside and grab the Dilaudid. Vernon had two big black garbage bags he was going to fill up with the pills. James figured they could grab at least 50,000 tablets and be rich for life.

With their plan in place, the two men crept over to the back of the drugstore the best they could. The bottle of Jack and the weed they had consumed made creeping tough, but they finally reached their destination. James tried kicking in the door to the drugstore, but it wouldn't budge. There was a big chunk of cement close by and they decided to grab it and heave it at the door. It took both of them to pick it up and throw it, but somehow they managed and the door burst open.

Meanwhile, some of the residents in neighboring apartments heard the commotion and alerted the two Saltillo officers on duty, Mac and Joe. The good Samaritans loaded up with the officers and they all went to the drugstore to check things out.

Back at the drugstore, Vernon was inside looking for the Dilaudid. Vernon can't read and it didn't help that he didn't even know what Dilaudid looked like. To make things worse, James was outside screaming for him to hurry. That's when Vernon spotted it: all those full big brown jugs sitting on a bench in the back. It had to be the "good stuff" if it was in big jugs hidden in the back. Vernon scooped them all up and dragged the bags to the door.

Just then, Mac and Joe pulled up in their cruiser with the concerned citizens not far behind. Vernon froze like a deer in the headlights. James grabbed one of the bags and tried to make a getaway. That's when the good Samaritans took off after him.

James didn't make it far with that big bag. The citizens weren't going to wait for the officers to take down a burglar in their town. They tackled James, pinned him to the ground, and dogpiled on top of him. Mac and Joe ended up having to save James from the citizens.

As commander of the drug task force, I got the call to respond to the break-in at my father's drugstore. That's right, they had broken into a police officer's family business. Arriving there, I found Vernon hanging his head in shame and James recovering from his apprehension. I opened the bag to see what they had stolen. I asked Vernon why he had stolen the jugs filled with the liquid. He told me they were the biggest ones so he guessed they must be the best.

I knew James and Vernon and took pity on them. Instead of charging them with burglary of a drugstore, I went with a simple burglary of a commercial building since everything was recovered. The grand jury asked why I wanted to indict them on the lesser charge. That's when I showed them one of the jugs. It was labeled in Latin "aqua distillas." That's right: Vernon and James had scored big with several brown glass jugs of distilled water.

Maury Schuh now works as a psychologist for the Baldwin (Miss.) Police Department.

Tags: Stupid Criminals, Citizen Involvement


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