First, a little background about me. Anyone who knows me would say I am calm, composed, and confident in almost all that I do. I have had more than my fair share of life experiences and I had to grow up quick. I don’t regret this, as it has forged me into who I am today. But the things I do, that I am able to and willing to do, tend to baffle people who don’t know me. I have always been a leader in all that I do, and it is so natural to me that it can put people off.
Now I say this only because I don’t want anyone to put themselves into harms way if they don’t feel capable enough to handle the situation. The following event is something most people would rather not willingly put themselves into. Myself included! But I have had more than enough experience in similar situations that it is almost second nature to me. My only hope in writing the details of this encounter out is that someone will be able to learn from my experience.
Here we go:
— 19:00 Sunday – 2HG sealed event.
The event starts. I get the players seated, hand out product, explain what is required of them for this event, and turn them loose to build. 5-10 minutes in I start my walk around to gather trash, answer random questions, see who opened amazing decks, etc. As I am doing so I notice one of the players just starring at me, hands in lap. I ask if everything is okay. Nothing. His partner (lets call him Red Shirt) answers with “Yeah, we’re good”. I say “Alright” and move on but think to myself “Well his Red Shirt will have his hands full for the next few hours”. Time goes by. Just after I announce a 10-minute warning, the Red Shirt came up to the counter and says “Um, yeah. My partner is not so good now. We will need to drop.”. Having suspected as much I am not surprised, say sure thing, drop them from the tournament, and they leave.
Time for deck construction is called. We get pairings up, players find their seats and opponents, and it turns out we have an uneven amount of teams now so one team gets the Bye. These two players seat themselves at the last table by the door to the hallway (where they would have been sitting had they had an opponent). I do my normal 2HG explanations and get the clock going. It is about 20:10 now.
One of the players who has the Bye gets up to go out for a smoke (we will call him Smoker). Through the door to the hall, and ten feet through another door to get outside, all of which are glass (think strip mall setting. Shop owners need to show off their wares). He walks into the parking lot to the smoking area. A minute later Red Shirt’s partner walks in and heads to the bathroom down the hall, still not looking good. Soon after he heads back down the hall and steps into the card shop. I note him, but am also paying attention to my players. I glance his way again in time see him grab some things off the table by the door. He wasn’t in any hurry or anything, just grabbed them and started to head outside.
Now I know the things he grabbed were not his, so I start to head for the door too. It’s about this time that Smoker is heading in from doing what he does. I see him talk to the player walking out the door for a moment (still making my way to the hall) and then said player is suddenly on the ground. I rush to the door, see Smoker picking up (his) things from the floor/ground (they are in the doorway to the outside) and see Red Shirt’s friend passed out, snoring, and bleeding from the mouth. Smoker walks in and says “He had my stuff man, and wasn’t going to give it back”.
All of this is visible through the glass, so everyone who happened to see this rushes to the door. Turning around I ask everyone to head back to their tables and continue playing while I sort out what is going on. I ask Smoker to head back to his seat and he does. Red Shirt walks in saying he saw the whole thing. Several things happen now. First, one of the employees walks out of the shop as well as the owner/TO. I ask the employee (who is also playing in the tournament) to give me hand. The guy on the floor (dubbed Drunk Guy from now on, as he was) was bleeding and snoring on the floor and I didn’t want him choking. We drag him a few feet to get him out of the doorway and turn him on his side to bleed onto the floor. I am worried about Drunk Guy being drunk and bleeding so I ask the owner if she can call 911 and get some medics over to the shop. She runs off to so that. Next I switch to investigation mode. Drunk Guy is stable so I pull Red Shirt outside and start asking him questions:
Q: Have you known Drunk Guy long? (They may have just been paired for the event, I want to rule this out)
A: Yeah, years! (Good)
Q: He looks toast. What is up with him?
A: Well he is on medication for x and x. Also, I am fairly sure he has been drinking. (So Pills and Alcohol. not a good mix. Explains why he was acting the way he was though)
Q: Okay. Why hadn’t you guys left?
A: We are waiting for a ride. (They are drinking age, and have a driver. Good, but that means they can’t leave. Good and Bad)
I ask Red Shirt to stay with Drunk Guy and keep an eye on him. We have medics on the way and perhaps police, but I need to talk to Smoker. Red Shirt agrees and waits in the hallway with Drunk Guy while I pull Smoker outside.
Q: So Smoker, what happened?
A: Well I was coming in from my smoke and I see my stuff in Drunk Guy’s hands. I say “Hey, that’s my stuff!”. Drunk Guy gets defensive and says “F@%# OFF” and holds my stuff closer. I say “I’m going to need you to give me my stuff back!” calm like though. Drunk Guy said “No!” and starts getting all angry like he was going to come at me. So I took my stuff back.
By “took my stuff back” Smoker meant a fist to Drunk Guy’s face. While there may have been a little poetic license involved, it more or less matched up to what I saw. I say thank you, informed him that medics and police were likely on the way, and that he would likely need to give a statement, so not to go anywhere. Smoker agreed and said he planned on playing still so he wasn’t going anywhere.
So the situation is defused for the moment. Drunk Guy is out, Red Shirt is keeping an eye on him, Smoker is in his seat by the door (a few feet from Drunk Guy, but on other side of glass) and I head into the card shop. This all happens in the span of minutes. I walk into the shop and ask for the attention of the players so I can make an announcement.
“So as you all just saw, there was an incident. Please continue playing (only about 15 minutes had passed on the clock). For safety reasons, please stay inside for now unless it is an emergency. Also, I need you all to not gossip about what happened as police are on the way, you likely don’t know the whole story, and the police will likely want to take uncontaminated statements. Thanks! If you need more time at the end of the round I will look at it on a per game basis.”
Players sated, I go chat with the owner who confirms that help is on the way. It is about this time that Drunk Guy starts screaming. He woke up to find that he had just had his face smashed in you see. I would likely scream too.
I walk out to the hall with the owner in tow. I see Drunk Guy on the floor rocking back and forth, grunting and moaning. Red Shirt is trying to keep him calm. I turn to the owner, ask that she post an employee at the door to prevent people from entering/leaving (just in case), and head out to talk to Drunk Guy. He starts to take his shoes and shirt off and gets up to walk around. Red Shirt and I ask him to sit back down as he is hurt and that help is on the way. He does, but only briefly. Getting back up he looks at me while puffing up his chest threateningly. I stare hard at him and hold my ground. Employee at the door (behind me) starts to come out but I hold up my hand ushering them back in. Red Shirt tells Drunk Guy to calm down. Growling loudly Drunk Guy then turns and puts his fist into a window behind him, cracking it from the center out (its a big window), and sits back down. I head back into the shop, instructing the employee to hold the door tight, and tell the owner we need police here now.
As I head back to the hall Drunk Guy has his clothes back on and is leaving the building. Him and Red Shirt start to walk across the parking lot when police show up and stop them (they must have had their description). Medics are there too. Police come in, start to ask questions and I point them to all the right people (myself included).
Round two starts at this time so I get players seated, reminded them to let the police do their work and not gossip until they are done, and got them playing (including Smoker). Police do their thing. They inform me (and the owner) that they are going to take Drunk Guy away for smashing the window and then they are gone. Normal play resumes (a midst much, and long over due gossiping).
So that is that. Police inform us that Smoker was well within his rights to retrieve his property from Drunk Guy, and, Drunk Guy being hostile, use of force was not going to be an issue. The owner ultimately decided to ban Drunk Guy from the store, but Red Shirt was more than welcome to return. Red Shirt did nothing wrong after all and was actively trying to help the situation.
From a judge standpoint, there was more than enough for me to slap a Unsportsmanlike Conduct – Aggressive Behavior on Smoker. But, being that the law was on Smoker’s side, I came to the conclusion that I would not penalize him. While he ultimately did so violently, he was simply trying to retrieve his stolen property. Red Shirt and Drunk Guy were already dropped, so not much could be done with them. I honestly can’t say if there is anything I would do differently, but again, previous experiences in life have taught me a lot.
So what so I hope my peers take away from this? Simply to stay calm and control the situation. Calm, clear heads will prevail. Also, do not put yourself into a situation you are not comfortable with. Keep everyone as safe as you can (yourself included), contact the authorities if needed, and ask as many questions as you can to get the big picture. Information is what we Judges base our authority on. Knowing more than the players is why they look up to us. But we also hold a leadership role, so use that position if you can.