Commentary

Connor Dermody: I have never felt so afraid for my own well-being

This commentary is by Connor Dermody, who works in Burlington.

Well, so, this happened, and it’s shaking me to the core — more so for my community than myself.

And, based on the police response to the happening, I have some strong words to say: Where may we find justice in a place where, eight years ago when I moved here, I felt safe?

Allow me to explain: I was working my day shift downtown (undisclosed) and a former co-worker along with a gentleman I had not known strolled in to the bar. They seemed OK — playing pool, having pours, usual things you would see as a dive bartender. All seemed fine, regulars sitting at the end of the bar as I set up for a night of success for the night-shifters. 

Then a manager of the establishment next door informed me that the patron who I had not known had just come next door, threatening patrons, destructive demeanor, and he was now at the end of my bar. They pointed him out, and moments after, he strolled out. 

He comes back in, demanding his phone (to which I had to explain that no one had given me a phone gone missing), and shortly after became hostile. He threatened me, some of my patrons (I should change my wording and call them my dear friends) with, including but not limited to, vulgar sexual threats and a so-kind contribution to his phrasing where he said he would (with a look in his eyes that looked quite serious) pluck my eyes out. 

I am not the biggest individual, I know I can handle myself, but in my time as a bartender downtown, I have never felt so afraid for my own well-being. Quite honestly, I had much more concern for my patrons at the bar, trying to enjoy themselves at 8 o’clock on a Saturday evening downtown.

I eventually, with due diligence, had him outside the front door in order to assure the safety of people in the bar. I asked the security next door (note: the bar I work at had no door person and/or security on hand due to the hour) to call the Burlington Police Department. He hands the phone over to me as the man continues to banter and threaten one of my dear friends who was kind enough to come to the door and stand guard with me. 

The telephone operator asked far too many questions for the haste that I needed, asking questions in far too casual of a tone. including, “Well, sir, has he assaulted anyone?” And it makes me question: wWhat if he already had? Would that make the police throw on the lights on their way instead of a casual strut up Church Street to address this threat to public safety?

And the cops arrived. The guy knew that he wasn’t going to make too much trouble at that point. The officers asked me if I wanted to verbally affirm a trespassing clause on him, which, given his wholesome behavior in the former 20 minutes, I gladly did — and certainly not without my body quivering with fear because he’s a large man who, as I came to discover, was released from his prison sentence only a short while ago. 

He had this look in his eyes that he would be back as the officers let him walk after taking down his information. The officers remarked that he should take a walk and go to another bar (which baffled me, due to the context I had just provided). 

I was out after work downtown with friends, and had to see him several times. Nothing happened, but the mere thought is still on my mind and shoots a visceral feeling of fear for my own well-being, given how I ruined his night out on the town.

So, what are we to do with this little scene? Shall we discuss this as a community, or leave it on the counter and simply say, “Well, these things happen”? 

I, for one, am addressing this because I am scared to death of the moment when something happens to my neighbor by the hands of such an individual who is free to roam the streets of the Queen City. 

I will end by saying to the Burlington Police Department, like a parent to their kid who has made a poor decision, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. Step up and do what’s right before something wrong happens. 

I am shedding light on this moment more as a preventive measure for public safety than to be bashful on the work that police must do, and as a simple man without a badge, I feel a bit vulnerable, incapable of taking matters in such a moment into my own hands. Let’s discuss.


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