I promised mysel I’d stay out of local politics once I moved up here to Sonoma County, California, but this story is too good to pass up.
It was 3 a.m., and the beautiful lady heard a rustling at her window. Maybe it was the wind. Had she left the window open? She lay motionless in her bed, satin sheets sleek and cool against the heat of her body. Am I dreaming? she wondered.
The room was dark except for slats of bluish light leaking in through the window blinds. There was that rustling sound again—and the blinds moved! She bolted straight up, automatically covering her breast with the innate modesty of a nice Catholic girl, and shivered in the sudden draft. The window was opening—which clearly meant, she concluded as the last dreams fled her memory, someone was on the other side opening it.
The hand came through the slats—a brown hand, a hairy hand, a male hand. That’s when she screamed.
The hand withdrew, and the window stood half-open for a moment before falling shut. I’m not dreaming, she thought as she reached for the phone on the nightstand beside her.
The 911 operator was very nice. She took down all the information: a man, in her bedroom, trying to get in. A hand, a brown hand—that hand!
Now calm down, ma’am; it’s going to be all right. Just stay calm.
I am calm, she thought, and maybe she said it, too. Calm.
The lady about jumped clear off the bed when the doorbell rang, and she let out a little cry, which the Nice Operator heard: “What’s wrong? Is he coming through the window?”
“No, no.” She reached for her cigarettes and fumbled around looking for a lighter, finally finding it in the pocket of her bathrobe. “No, it’s the doorbell.” Her hand shook so much she could hardly light up. “The doorbell,” she repeated, anger coursing up through her neck and exploding in the sound of her voice: “It’s three in the morning,” she said, fully awake for the first time, “and there’s someone at my window. And someone ringing my doorbell.”
“Don’t answer it.” The voice on the other end was firm, as if it belonged to someone used to being obeyed, like the voices of the nuns at Catholic prep school. But she was already moving swiftly down the stairs, to the first floor. The doorbell rang again, and a shock of fear went through her as she saw the doorknob turn. Gathering all her courage, she went on tiptoes and looked through the small window in the door.
There stood Efren Carrillo, wearing only underwear—boxers, red and gray teddy bears on a striped black-and-white background—and a pair of flip flops. She recognized him immediately: He lived nearby, and she had seem him around the neighborhood, now and then exchanging a few pleasantries. A rising star in the local Democratic Party, the 30-something politician had been elected county supervisor in a close-fought race, and then reelected with the fervent backing of the Latino community, who saw him as one of their own who had made good.
What was he doing here? And where, she wondered, are his pants? Against her better judgment, she opened the door.
He stood there, his cellphone in his left hand, his right hand held out, palm upward in a gesture of helplessness, almost of supplication. It seemed like more than a few seconds before he said anything. Finally, he managed to croak out a few words: “I’m just . . . a neighbor.”
She wrapped her robe around her neck: in the distance, sirens, as the first light of morning edged the clouds with gold.
Carrillo was arrested on suspicion of felony burglary. Police said they were convinced he was intent on committing some kind of sexual crime, and his state of undress at the scene might indicate that something along these lines was on his mind.
That was months ago. For most of the intervening time, Carrillo was in seclusion, supposedly at a rehabilitation facility in order to deal with what he acknowledged is a major alcohol problem. The city attorney recused herself from the case, since Carrillo is a member of the board of supervisors, and she is answerable to him. Which meant the state attorney general’s office was handed the ball. It took three court appearances in as many months before the decision to charge Carrillo with the misdemeanor of “peeking” was announced.
If he had been hit with a charge of felony burglary, with intent to commit rape, that would have spelled the end of Carrillo’s political career. He would have been forced to resign, and that would have been that. But no: In spite of police statements that Carrillo was engaged in predatory behavior, the best the attorney general’s office could come up with was “peeking.” Opponents had already organized a movement to recall Carrillo from office, and this clear act of political favoritism only emboldened them. They demanded he step down; Carrillo refused.
For a while, it looked like Carrillo’s cavorting about in his underwear might end his political career, but fate intervened in a way possible only in our present state of cultural and political decomposition.
Little Andy Lopez, age 13, was walking down Moorland Avenue carrying a toy, the sort of thing kids play with these days: an airgun made to look like an AK-47. And, yes, it was missing the orange tip that indicates it is, after all, just a toy and not a real gun. That corner of Moorland is known as a rather rough spot on Santa Rosa’s real-estate map—what is generally referred to as a “working-class neighborhood,” where a recent police sweep revealed the majority of backyards sporting lush gardens of fresh marijuana. In any case, there was Andy, big for his age, walking down the street with a toy that looks remarkably like an AK-47, and along comes a police car.
Accounts of what happened vary, and I won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say, Andy Lopez is dead, shot seven times, including at least once in the back. A shrine has grown up in the vacant lot where he fell, a makeshift cathedral replete with icons and flickering candles and flowers overflowing what is clearly an altar. Our usually quiet corner of the Bay Area has witnessed rallies of thousands, with every agitator in the Bay Area homing in on what has the potential to become a Latino version of the Trayvon Martin case. The Latino community is up in arms, and Carrillo is coming out of hiding for the first time, his visibility heightened because of this issue. While it may be a bit of an overstatement to say Andy Lopez died for Carrillo’s sins, what appears to have been a tragic accident may very well have saved Underwear Man from a well-deserved place in the Graveyard of Failed Political Ambitions.
Shortly after the “peeking” charge was filed against Carrillo, a 15-year-old boy in the neighboring town of Windsor was caught in a 19-year-old girl’s bedroom. As in Carrillo’s case, it was three in the morning, and the kid was an uninvited guest, sans-culottes. He was apprehended not far from the girl’s house and arrested. As an escapee from a local halfway house for troubled kids, he will undoubtedly be charged with felony burglary and attempted sexual assault. That’s what happens when you get caught with your pants down and you’re not an up-and-coming member of the political class.
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