The “story” broke on capecodtoday.com: a man rolled into Provincetown in a military truck adorned with Trump campaign signs, thin blue line flags, and the driver’s own campaign banners. The man calls his vehicle the MAGA Truck. He is a candidate for Republican State Committee and on that day, Feb. 24, he was campaigning.
I don’t want to mention his name; it gives him too much oxygen.
According to the story, written “by staff” of capecodtoday.com, the truck was attacked upon its arrival in front of town hall. The candidate’s Facebook post is quoted, describing how banners “were torn from the truck before I even set the air brakes.”
Meanwhile, emails came my way, one from someone ready to refute that account. I took a deep breath. This would require research.
The story continued. “I pursued him, and we eventually found ourselves in an alley. He spun around and told me to leave him the F alone. He was about 30 years old, white, six foot, 175 pounds. I smelled alcohol on his breath. I put my hand on my gun and told him I was placing him under citizen’s arrest, and we were returning to the truck to meet with police.”
For a reporter, a first stop is often the police department. The Provincetown police say they found an intoxicated man at the scene, whom they took into protective custody. But they found no evidence of a street chase, according to a statement from Chief Jim Golden. The chief doesn’t say whether or not the intoxicated man ripped flags or signs off the truck. There were no arrests.
The story faded into a made-for-Facebook moment.
Still, two questions lingered. First, what is capecodtoday.com? Golden described it in his press release as a “Cape Cod news blog.” The staff of two is all volunteer, according to the website. Even entries appearing under the category of “news” are written with few bylines. I recognize press releases about candidates and causes. The candidate in this story, it turns out, is also a writer for the website.
Professional reporters cannot run for political office. But there was something else about this story: a citizen’s arrest involving a gun sounds dramatic. But also frightening. What is a “citizen’s arrest,” anyway?
It’s against the law to conduct a citizen’s arrest, Golden said, unless the person arrested is later convicted of a felony. Playing at being a cop is not encouraged by law enforcement. Taking the law into one’s own hands can lead to being brought to court yourself for false arrest, assault and battery, and possible criminal prosecution, he stated.
Thanks, Chief. In a world where the truth often seems to be in the crosshairs, we all needed to hear that.